The annual Jeff's Jam music festival has grown from a concert in a small bar to performances on a 30-foot stage on Sandusky Street.
This year, it will continue to expand as it hosts its first national act.
The fundraising event that runs from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Aug. 10, will feature two local bands and headliner Delbert McClinton, a bluesman who will perform with his son, Clay.
"There has been a lot of buzz about this ever since we announced that Delbert was coming, because he has a large underground Delaware following and anybody who lives within driving distance is going to be traveling to see him play," said committee member Adam Vaughn.
The Grammy-winning musician has released nearly 30 albums since arriving on the music scene in 1972. He gained mainstream popularity in 1992 when the single Tell Me About It, a duet with Tanya Tucker, reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Country chart. He also had four blues albums reach No. 1 on the U.S. Blues chart.
"This could honestly be the year that we see a couple thousand extra people at the jam," Vaughn said.
About 5,000 people typically attend the musical event, created in 2000 by Joann Meyer, owner of the Backstretch Bar. Her husband, Jeff, had often played in bands and supported them through the bar, so when he died, she decided to begin raising money in his memory by spotlighting local musicians.
The jam has raised more than $110,000 in scholarships for young musicians and the Delaware Music Boosters. The fund also supports local musicians who have fallen on hard times because of poor health.
"I have some very good companies and friends who have supported us throughout the years, and this year we've got enough sponsorship to pay for everything, so any money raised the day of the event goes straight into the fund," Meyer said.
This year's event is especially close to Meyer's heart, because Jeff was a blues buff who considered McClinton among his favorite musicians.
"There is definitely a sentimental factor there, but I'm also really excited," she said.
Other acts that will take the stage include Hootie McBoob and the Inflatable Dates, a four-man band that's been mixing blues and roots music since 1998; and Pett Crow, a blues group made up of three brothers who attend Olentangy High School. Hootie McBoob is scheduled to perform from 5:45 to 7 p.m. and Pett Crow will fill the 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. slot.
Kicking off the music festival at 4 p.m. will be the annual Hall of Fame jam session. As part of the event, Meyer created a Hall of Fame to recognize local musicians. On Aug. 10, three new members will be inducted and join the 25 others who have been recognized over the years. The new inductees then will take the stage to perform together.
"Sometimes we have two or three musicians up on stage during the Hall of Fame jam and sometimes we have 15 up there at once, so it's really amazing," Meyer said. "Central Ohio has a huge, strong music community and it's amazing to be able to take just one day to celebrate that. That's what this is all about."
During the performances, jam visitors can browse more than 100 silent-auction items, ranging from a mountain bike to gift packages from local businesses. For the first time this year, the music will be briefly interrupted at 8:30 p.m. for a live auction. Meyer said a hot item up for bid during the inaugural auction is an opportunity to get a picture with McClinton by purchasing a signed harmonica or cowbell.
Proceeds from the beer garden that serves the event also benefit the cause. There will be food trucks on hand, but Meyer said it was important to her six-person event committee that the dining options be limited to local establishments.
"The whole purpose of the day is about the music, the kids and raising money for them, but it's also about being downtown and getting people to explore it," Meyer said. "I've been getting emails from people traveling to see Delbert, so there will be a lot of people who haven't ever been to town, and I want to showcase our community."