BY RUSSELL CLEPPER
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
Aug. 26, 2013
Two years old and already one of the biggest kids on the block.
Almost 30 acts will perform during three days for the Oak Harbor Music Festival this Labor Day Weekend, Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. Organizers expect several thousand people to attend.
“Last year, about 3,100 people came out,” said Margaret Livermore, president of the Oak Harbor Music Festival Corporation, which was recently granted 501(3)C nonprofit status.
“This year we are hoping to see 6,000 to 8,000.”
That makes the event, which is free to the public, a major contender in the music scene on Whidbey Island, all the more so considering the quality of the acts that organizers are attracting. Highly talented and popular local acts will be joined by a slew of up and coming bands from around the Northwest region, including groups from Canada and Alaska.
More established local performers with long, impressive feuilles de route include Windham Hill recording artist Scott Cossu, bluesman Mark Dufresne and rock and soul artist (and recent X Factor finalist) Leroy Bell.
A section of Pioneer Way downtown will be transformed into a pedestrian thoroughfare between two sound stages. The Windemere Harbor View Stage will be set up in the Go Realty parking lot. A few blocks further east, the Island Thrift Dockside Stage, near Whidbey Coffee (near the intersection of Pioneer with Midway) will provide a second venue. Food courts and beer gardens near the stages will serve attendees and arts and crafts booths will offer their wares for sale, too.
“We’re offering parking at the big lot at the intersection of Pioneer and Bayshore,” said Livermore. “And camping, too, on a first come, first serve basis.”
Camping is $25 for RV’s and campers (no hook-ups.)
The event raises funds for diverse local needs or projects, including the Ed Bridges Music Scholarship for local students. Bridges, former music teacher at Oak Harbor High School, will present the scholarship this year during the Opening Ceremony on at 5:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, at the Windemere Harbor View Stage.
Local acts include indie folk artist Nathaniel Talbot who will take to the Island Thrift Dockside Stage at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30 for a solo performance. Talbot’s songwriting skills, creatively accomplished finger-style guitar picking and distinctive strong tenor voice have earned him accolades throughout the Northwest. He will be kicking off the music on that stage, 30 minutes after the Bellingham group, Polecat, opens the the festival on the Harbor View stage.
Tambourine Sky will play at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31. The band members are seasoned performers Janie Cribbs, Joe Reggiatore, Larry Mason and Kevin Johnson, all Whidbey Island musicians, well known and respected locally for their original music and performing skills. Cribbs and Reggiatore have performed locally for several years as the rocking, bluesy folk duo, Janie and Joe.
Larry Mason did the booking for the festival and is a former student of Bridges. He said many of Bridges’ students are still involved in the professional music scene in some capacity in the region. Including Mason, there are at least three of his former students playing in the festival; Carl Funk of the Halyards, and Terry Morgan, bassist for Leroy Bell.
Mason is also enthused by the fact that this year’s recipient of the Ed Bridges Music Scholarship is a young lady who wants to become a music teacher.
“It’s so cool to think that this money will go to help someone who is going to influence other young people the rest of her life. It’s a win/win for us,” he said.
Along with Funk, Mason also performs with the Halyards, an Americana roots rock group, that plays on the Windemere Harbor View stage at 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. Rounding out the participation of island musicians, fans of Janie and Joe may be interested to note that Joe Reggiatore will do a solo performance featuring his masterful guitar playing on that same stage and on the same day at 11 a.m.
Oak Harbor businessman Michael-John Paparella got the idea to produce an annual music festival in Oak Harbor on Labor Day weekend. He believed a music festival could help bring business to the downtown merchants in Oak Harbor and raise funds for local causes as well. He had seen this kind of community project work well in disaster-struck communities in Florida where he previously lived.
Originally called the Oak Harbor Music and Jazz Festival, organizers this year changed the name to reflect the more eclectic offering of music this year’s line-up will present. Many genres will be represented, including country, Americana, roots, indie, folk, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, singer/songwriter, blues, swing jazz and classic rock. There will even be Argentine tango, interpreted by another Bellingham-based band, Tocato Tango.
The line-up page on the festival’s website (see below) has links to most of the groups where prospective festival goers may listen to their music; a useful feature for folks who would like to plan ahead or discover new music to come out and enjoy. This will be a rare chance to hear some of these artists here on Whidbey Island.
For more information visit the Oak Harbor Music Festival site.
(Pictured at top, Robbie Walden guitarist./Photo courtesy of the artist)
Russell Clepper is a performing singer songwriter who plies his trade locally and around the country. He also is a substitute teacher for the Oak Harbor School District.