Blues for benefit: Festival pounds out tunes to raise cash for charities

Regina Jackson, of Dallas, dances to the Josh Garrett Band at the Bonita Blues Festival at Riverside Park in  downtown Bonita Springs on Saturday, March 12, 2011. Now in its fifth year, the Bonita Blues Festival drew several thousand people over Friday and Saturday to see nine bands from Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida and England perform. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Bonita Springs Assistance Office, the Wounded Warrior Project and Music for Minors. Tristan Spinski/Staff

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Regina Jackson, of Dallas, dances to the Josh Garrett Band at the Bonita Blues Festival at Riverside Park in downtown Bonita Springs on Saturday, March 12, 2011. Now in its fifth year, the Bonita Blues Festival drew several thousand people over Friday and Saturday to see nine bands from Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida and England perform. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Bonita Springs Assistance Office, the Wounded Warrior Project and Music for Minors. Tristan Spinski/Staff

— Guitars wailed and the crowds swayed this weekend during the fifth annual Bonita Blues Festival.

The two-day festival, held at Riverside Park in downtown Bonita Springs on Friday and Saturday, drew thousands of attendees to hear nine bands sing the blues.

The bands included Marty Stokes and the Captiva Band, Tommy Lee Cook and the Boys from Buckingham, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Victor Wainright and the Wild Roots, The Certified Band, J.P. Soars and the Red Hots, Josh Garrett Band, Hamilton Loomis and Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang.

Kevin Barry co-founded the festival with his wife, Jennifer Barry and Mike and Terry Pfeffer in 2007 after attending a blues festival in Pine Island the year before.

“We had so much fun that we decided to start our own,” Barry said.

Barry said they partnered with the City of Bonita Springs and every year give all of the money they raise to charity. This year’s beneficiaries are the Bonita Springs Assistance Office, the Wounded Warrior project and the Music of Minors Foundation.

Maribel Slabaugh, executive director of the Bonita Springs Assistance Office, an organization that provides temporary financial assistance to people in need, said the money raised at the blues festival is an integral part to her organization’s capacity to help the growing number of people in need.

Barry added that last year the Bonita Blues Festival gave $16,000 to the Music for Minors Foundation – a music education foundation.

Mike Ancona of Davie and a member of the board of directors for the South Florida Blues Society, said attending the Bonita Blues Festival has become a “must do” event every year for blues enthusiasts.

“Kevin has a knack for featuring some of the best acts from South Florida and for us to come out and see our buddies just adds to the experience,” Ancona said about Kevin Barry and the festival.

Barry points out that while four of the blues acts are from south Florida, the festival also drew bands from Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and England.

For Laura Tichy-Smith, of Naples, it’s all about the music. As she danced to the Josh Garrett Band on Saturday afternoon, Tichy-Smith marveled at the great weather and happy crowds.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s real people. Real stuff. Real feelings.”

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