ABERDEEN – For the first time in 12 years, the Bukka White Blues Festival will be held downtown, giving it the opportunity to highlight improvements underway at Acker Park, located at 301 N. Meridian St.
The blues festival will be held Oct. 15 and 16, featuring a host of live blues artists, food vendors, children’s activities, cooking competitions and animal shows.
“We love having it in the city. We’re focusing on the park by getting it back in the city,” said festival chairperson Em Walters, who hopes the festival can draw more interest to Acker Park. “The park is a place for the citizens, and it’s a place for them to play.”
As far as music, the Crossroad Band will kick off this weekend’s festivities Friday at 6:15 p.m., followed by Bill ‘Howlin’ Madd’ Perry and Lightnin’ Malcolm. Saturday’s lineup begins at 1:15 p.m. with Stormy Monday Blues Band, followed by Bill Abel Band, The Electric Mudd, Harper and Midwest Kind, Kenny Brown Band and Super Chikan.
The stage will be set up just east of where the park’s former swimming pool was.
“This year, we’ve got some local bands, some regional bands out of the Delta, and we’ve got Harper and Midwest Kind, who hails from Australia. We’ve just got it all really,” Walters said.
Children’s activities will include an obstacle course inflatable and a bounce house/slide inflatable near the intersection of Vine and Meridian streets.
“The park has got old school playground equipment. It has a slide, merry-go-round and swings,” Walters said.
Wildlife biologist Bob Tarter will host his animal show, “Our Tales Will Tell!,” Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m. at the gazebo at the corner of Vine and Meridian streets.
Meridian Street will be blocked off from Canal Street to Dr. R.E. Woodruff Drive beginning Friday at noon, according to the plan, to allow for pedestrian traffic and food vendors. There will be a one-block detour for traffic.
Parking will be available at the former Big Star and Fred’s parking lots, side streets, municipal parking lots and in a lot on the north side of the park.
Food vendors will include Real Deal BBQ, the Buzzard Wagon and Sugar Puddin’ Wagon Wheel. Polar Ice will be there Friday.
“Arrangements are also being made for downtown restaurants to be open during the festival, and several merchants are going to have specials,” Walters said.
There will be beer sales in the park during the festival provided by 1817 Brewery and Mitchell Distribution.
The festival’s Ribs on the River will return, in addition to a steak competition through the nationally sanctioned Steak Cookoff Association, which will be held near the intersection of Meridian and Vine streets.
Both competitions will be Saturday only.
Prize money for the steak cookoff is $750 for first place, $400 for second, $250 for third, $150 for fourth, $100 for fifth and $50 for sixth through 10th place. The rib competition’s payout is 40 percent for first place, 25 percent for second place, 15 percent for third place and 10 percent for fourth and fifth place.
Anyone interested in competing can sign up through www.steakcookoffs.com and under the Events tab, click on Bukka White Blues Festival on the Oct. 16 calendar. Entry fee is $150 for the steak competition.
Entry is $50 for the ribs competition.
There is limited water and electricity, and coolers are permitted for cooking teams.
Load-in for the competition is 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday, with a cooks meeting at 10 a.m. Ribs will be turned in between 1 and 1:15 p.m., and steaks are to be turned in between 2:30 and 3 p.m. The awards will be held at 4 p.m.
For more information about the cooking competitions, call promoter Jack Campbell at 256-5976 or email email@example.com.
Sprucing up the park
As far as park improvements, there has been landscaping, drainage work and grounds cleaning completed. There is also a new set of steps providing an entrance on the north side of Acker Park, which was provided by Dwight Stevens.
“The fountain has been restored. We have plans to restore the bathrooms, but they won’t be ready for the festival,” Walters said. “The information booth has been brought back to be an information booth.”
She thanked the city and volunteers for their help.
“The city has been so cooperative and helpful in doing their part to get this park ready. They have really done a great job. Dwight Stevens has been working nonstop for a long time to get ready too,” Walters said. “The committee has had to dig deep and work overtime and do manual labor that we’ve never done before.”