Twenty years of blues

F or two decades, the Lebanon Blues Festival has been the most highly anticipated event of the summer for the surrounding community. Hosted by the Lebanon Optimist Club, this free event is family friendly and truly has something for everyone. From blues music to food vendors, an extensive classic car show, a Beer Garden, and […]

Lebanon Blues Festival Returns


Catch eight great blues acts, like Johnny Fink & The Intrusion. Photo: Ed Sawicki.

By Katie Fender

For two decades, the Lebanon Blues Festival has been the most highly anticipated event of the summer for the surrounding community. Hosted by the Lebanon Optimist Club, this free event is family friendly and truly has something for everyone. From blues music to food vendors, an extensive classic car show, a Beer Garden, and the Red Hot Blues Run, it’s no wonder this event has been going strong for 20 years.

Ann Smith, chairman of the festival and Vice President of the Lebanon Optimist Club, has been putting this event together for 18 years.

“This is our big fundraiser for the year,” Smith says. “This is where we raise all the money and give it right back out to the kids of the community. Whatever we raise, we give out. We don’t give out any salaries, we just give it all back.”

Of course, blues music is the main event at the festival. This year the headliner is The Scotty Bratcher Band coming in from Nashville. Bratcher grew up in the tri-state area.

Top-notch blues artists from the Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus areas will be featured, including David Thornton & Friends, Chris Yakopcic, the Ben Levin Duo, the Sean Carney Band, Johnny Fink & The Intrusion, Robin Lacy & Dezydeco, and The Inner City Blues Band.

“Our music coordinator has been with us for around 10 years and he also plays in one of the bands that sometimes play in our festival,” Smith says. “People who are in the business seem to know everyone else in the business so that’s why it’s so awesome to have him as he already knows all the performers and knows the great acts to bring in.”   

Not only is this one of the more fun festivals of the summer, it is also a huge fundraiser and creates a lot of opportunities for the kids of the Lebanon community.

The first two years the event was put on by the Chamber of Commerce who decided it would be great to have a music festival in town. However, after not coming up with a profit, they handed it off to the Lebanon Optimist Club.

While parking and admission are free to attendees, there is plenty to spend money on, and festivalgoers can feel good about doing so. The profit made from alcohol, food, shirts, the Red Hot Blues Run, and any other thing that has a price all goes back to the kids of the community. Smith describes what this money contributes to.   

“Families who are in need can apply to be a part of this, but one of the bigger things that we help support is the Warren County Child Advocacy Center, which is a great place where kids go if they are abused physically, mentally, or sexually,” she says. “They are able tell their story one time and it’s recorded by professionals. That way, they don’t have to tell the police, they don’t have to tell the prosecutor, and they don’t have to tell the doctor. They used to have to tell their story so many times. So what the advocacy center does is they tell these kids, no, you tell your story one time and then they can play that in court.”   

In addition, funds are donated to BRIDGE, writing for the disabled, and also helps fund an anti-bullying program at the Lebanon City Schools. There’s also a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program they contribute to, as well as scholarships.

Clearly, fundraising is a huge part of this festival. People continue to come back not only to contribute to their community, but also because it really is a great time.

This event is very family friendly and the kid’s area has expanded this year. There is one part of the street solely dedicated to fun kids activities.  The car show is also a highly anticipated event that everyone seems to love. Last year around 240 classic cars were at the festival.

The Red Hot Blues Run is another fun event. This 5k is different than most as it is an evening run. It starts at the Golden Lamb and the runners end up back in downtown Lebanon. If you register and do the run, the participants get 5 Blues Bucks, which they can spend at the festival toward alcohol, food or whatever they like. There is also a kid run before this.

“We really do have a lot of people say they drive all the way up here to Lebanon for the atmosphere of this festival in this historic town,” Smith says.

The Lebanon Blues Festival will take place on August 4, 2018 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in downtown Lebanon, Ohio. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit lebanonbluesfestival.org, or call 513.588.0321.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Fender at KatieFender@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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