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24th annual Denton Blues Festival returns for another rockin’ year

24th annual Denton Blues Festival returns for another rockin’ year

24th annual Denton Blues Festival returns for another rockin’ year
September 22
12:00 2022

The Denton Blues Festival filled the air of Quakertown Park with music and the smell of barbecue for three days last weekend. 

The festival kicked off with celebrity karaoke in the evening on Friday, Sept. 16. Live blues performances began Saturday afternoon and continued through Sunday evening. Attendees set up their lawn chairs and blankets in the shade of the park’s trees as the late summer sun glared down.

“It’s a beautiful day and a nice time to come listen to [the music],” Leah Pritchett, Texas Woman’s University music therapy senior, said. 

Among the 13 performers at this year’s festival was Chris Brock, University of North Texas media arts instructor and guest performer with the Lubbock-based El Diablo Trio.

On Sunday, Brock took the stage on harmonica for an hour-long set with the group. Originally from Lubbock, Brock grew up with 39-year-old guitarist Steve Lott of El Diablo Trio. Brock and Lott were in a garage band together when they attended Texas Tech University.

“We played the fraternity parties,” Brock said. “Steve made it into a lifelong career […] I took a different path getting into television production.”

Brock began playing music at 15, when he started taking guitar lessons. He also taught himself to play the harmonica.

A festival goer dances while Lori Down performs on stage at the Denton Blues Festival on Sept. 17, 2022. Photo by Jami Hitchcock

“The harmonica […] I always wonder where exactly that came from,” Brock said. “There were some bands back in the 1970s that I liked, and I liked the sound of the harmonica. I picked one up and started listening and trying to do what they did, and now [playing the harmonica] comes from some place — I’m not sure where, but I love doing it.”

This is Brock’s second time performing with the group at the Blues Festival. Although he is not a regular member, Brock performs with them whenever he can, whether it is when they come to the DFW area or when he goes to Lubbock. 

“This festival is awesome,” Brock said. “It’s laid back and it’s a lot of fun to just come hang out and enjoy the music. Denton is such a great music town.”

The Texas band El Diablo Trio plays at the Denton Blues Festival on Sept. 18, 2022. Photo by Elizabeth Bulot

The first annual Denton Blues Festival was held in 1998. The festival, which was held virtually in 2020 due to COVID-19, has taken place every year since. The Denton Black Chamber of Commerce hosts the event which serves as the organization’s biggest fundraiser and membership drive of the year.

“We raise our money by grassroots – we call our sponsors […] and let them know what we’re all about, what we stand for and ask if [they] want to take part in our mission,” Reggie Hill, president and founding member of the Black Chamber of Commerce, said. “This is what we do. The money goes to different areas […] and it’s a fun event for family and friends.”

The Black Chamber of Commerce was established in 1995 with the goal to help African American-owned businesses grow and it is open to all racial and ethnic groups.

“We support disenfranchised groups, women business owners, minorities [and] even people that are Caucasian and don’t have money,” Hill said.

Along with a stage packed with blues tunes, food and merchandise vendors gathered in Quakertown Park.

Monica Bennett, owner of Monique’s Gifts, was one of this year’s vendors. It was her first time attending the event.

An executive staff member at Denton Blues Fest poses with cotton candy on Sept. 17, 2022. Photo by Madeleine Moore

“Everyone’s been very helpful and welcoming, and I’ve done a lot of business since I’ve been here,” Bennett said.

Bennett plans on returning as a vendor at next year’s festival.

“I just love all the people out enjoying the festival,” Bennett said. “I’m having an amazing time. I love this kind of atmosphere.”

Project Hope, a ministry of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Denton, sold food at the festival as a fundraiser. The ministry offers a food pantry, Hands of Hope Kitchen, which gives out free meals each Wednesday. It also runs Hope Cares, a free medical clinic.

The money raised by the ministry will go toward a new building for Project Hope, as well as help the ministry continue its services.

“We were here last year, so hopefully we can make a bigger impact this year,” Toya Stevenson, Project Hope director and Denton resident, said.

Brock has seen steady growth of the Denton Blues Festival since its beginning. He said that kind of consistency is what those involved with the event want to see for the community-wide music fest.

“We’re here for a cause,” Brock said. “We’re here to have fun and for a better future for our town.”

Featured Image: Lori Dawn plays at the Denton Blues Festival on Sept. 17, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

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Festival goers dance while Lori Down performs on stage at the Denton Blues Festival on Sept. 17, 2022. Photo by Jami Hitchcock

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Kaitlynn Hutchins

Kaitlynn Hutchins

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