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Thursday, September 01, 2011

MORE SUMMER FUN: The Nanaimo Blues Festival


Horseshoe Bay Marina

Last weekend my friend Patrick and I headed out to Horseshoe Bay to catch the ferry to Nanaimo for the day.  My son and his band were playing at the Nanaimo Blues Festival and neither of us had been to Nanaimo so we thought it would be an excellent weekend outing.

Heading out into Howe Sound

It's a beautiful cruise through the islands of Howe Sound and out into the Strait of Georgia.  The sailing takes just over an hour and is a relaxing, enjoyable trip.


As the ferry approached the Vancouver Island coast, I was listening to Diana Krall's song about Departure Bay on my mp3 player.  Then we approached into the Bay, a scenic, beautiful sight.

Departure Bay, Nanaimo

Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and the third oldest city in British Columbia.  It began as the home of five Coast Salish villages and became a Hudson's Bay Company outpost more than 150 years ago.  Now it's a thriving port city, sheltered on the eastern side of the island.  It has a population of 77,000. 



The sheltered bays of the Strait of Georgia are perfect for sea adventurers including sailing and fishing excursions.  Nanaimo is considered the best scuba diving destination in North America because of the rich marine ecosystem and diversity of saltwater inhabitants as well as sunken ships that have become artificial reefs.


The Blues Festival was held at Maffeo Sutton Park, a lovely sea-side venue with plenty of opportunity to wander the shoreline trails as well as relaxing under shade trees while listening to some of the best West Coast Blues.  The Fesitval was presented by the Nanaimo Blues Society and was a three-day event.  Unfortunately we could only afford the Saturday shows, but each day including the Friday and Sunday, was perfect weather and the most excellent musicians participating.

One of the craft tables.

It was a hot, sunny day and we had arrived just after noon but by later in the day the grounds filled up with more people. 


Like me, most people brought along their own beach chairs


I wished I'd brought a picnic lunch like some spectators had, but there were food booths outside the venue with an interesting range of snacks.  I enjoyed the pulled pork on a bun. 

There were several different Blues bands performing before it was time for my son, Steve Kozak and his All-star band.  So I took a break to cool off and walked along the sea front, enjoying the scenery.


By six o'clock it was Steve's turn.  Meanwhile, one of my daughter's long-time friends had shown up with her pal and we had a beer at the Beer Gardens and then settled down to hear some more fine music.

Me, Connie, and Sue (Steve's wife)

Steve Kozak and the West Coast Blues All Stars
Steve and his group of West Coast Blues All Stars are popular with Blues fans.  The blurb on the festival program says "You can feel the drive dirt and sweat in every note they play and sing whenever you see them perform." As always, it was an excellent show, and well worth making a day of it to attend.

My Blues Musician Son, Steve Kozak
We stayed for a little of the day's feature, The Duke Robillard Band, but didn't want to miss the one and only last ferry back, so we left early.  Turns out we could have stayed much longer, but I guess it's better to be safe than sorry.  And by then my eardrums were worn out as I'd sat in front of the amps for much of the day, close to the stage.  So waiting at the ferry terminal,  relaxing in the solitude, was a good, quiet way to end a wonderful day's outing.

Reflections:  The End of a Perfect Day