It's been five years since the blues rolled into town, and Canal Winchester residents are about to get another taste of music and barbecue Aug. 1 and 2 at the fifth annual Blues & Ribfest.
The two-day celebration of blues music and food, with a focus on the rib competition, is free and open to the public. Friday's schedule will run from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday's activities are scheduled from noon to 11 p.m.
All events will be held in the historic downtown district of Canal Winchester, centered around the intersection of High and Waterloo streets.
"This thing just keeps getting bigger and better every year," said Bruce Jarvis, executive director of Destination: Canal Winchester, which organizes the event. "Weather permitting, we've seen a jump in attendance of about 10 percent each year and expect another bump this year."
Jarvis said everyone involved in putting on the Blues & Ribfest anticipated it would take about five years for it to hit its stride.
Estimated attendance of more than 32,000 people in previous years suggests the festival has done that, he said.
"We've continued to refine the event and this year, we decided to expand the children's area while doing away with the arts and crafts," Jarvis said. "I think we realized that people really wanted more things to keep the kids entertained and were really coming out to eat some good barbecue and listen to some great music."
In addition to the bounce houses and other children's activities from previous years, this year's event will add pony rides.
Organizers are hoping to bolster their efforts of bringing in ever bigger acts by augmenting stage sponsors with performer sponsors, starting at $150.
"We've managed to attract several local business sponsors for our performers and we're hoping to have all of the sponsorship slots filled," Jarvis said. "Don't wait to claim your own personal 'blues star' -- it's a great way to show your community support."
Speaking of stars, Jarvis said, he's particularly proud of this year's lineup, which includes two well-known names out of Chicago: Carlise Guy, daughter of famed bluesman Buddy Guy; and Rip Lee Pryor, son of Snooky Pryor.
"This is a chance for a real brush with blues fame," Jarvis said. "We've got 19 of the best national and local blues acts you'll find, another of which is Cee Cee James, who is one of the greatest blues/rock singers out there. She has a voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin and you've got to see her to believe it."
Rib options this year will include seven vendors, with another boost in the quality of the competition, according to Jarvis.
"We're welcoming back Big Pappy's and a couple other local favorites, along with four nationally competitive outfits from Texas and Virginia," he said. "Besides those guys, we'll have a host of other concession vendors and our beer and wine garden."
According to the event's website, visitors to the Blues & Ribfest should observe a few rules:
• Pets are not allowed.
• No coolers or outside food and beverages are allowed in the festival area.
• No skateboards, inline skates, scooters, bicycles or any other "recreational wheels" are allowed in the festival area.
• House seating is limited, so visitors should bring portable chairs.
A full schedule of music and food vendors is available online at bluesandribfest.com.