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Best blues: Blind Willie Festival earns praise from organizers, fans

One of the organizers of the 15th Annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival, which was held last Saturday near Thomson and drew an estimated 1,500 fans, says it was one of the best festivals ever.

This year's festival featured legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples and many other notable entertainers.

"It probably was the best festival yet," said Don Powers, who worked alongside numerous volunteers to make the event successful. "The weather was great; the folks who came were well-behaved and seemed to love the atmosphere and the hospitality they were shown."

Mr. Powers also complimented the host of entertainers who attended the festival, including Ms. Staples, whose career in music has spanned more than 50 years. Other well-known entertainers included Mike Farris, Duke Robillard, Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, Mary Flower, Geoff Achison and Crosstie Walkers.

"The performances were nothing short of inspirational, just perfect. And the artists who came to play were happy to be here and gave our all-volunteer effort rave reviews," said Mr. Powers, who serves as administrator for the City of Thomson and plays with the Crosstie Walkers. "We thought going into the event that we had potential to have the best year ever artistically and from what I'm hearing, we did."

Many of those in the audience were festival veterans who continue to enjoy the annual event.

"I've been here all 15 years," said Michael Horgan, an attorney from Washington, Ga. "I think it's just great. It's an incredible festival every year. I hate to see it end every year. And when it does, I can't wait until it comes back."

Ed Damon, a teacher at Butler High School in Augusta, said he wouldn't have missed the festival for anything.

"It's a great blues festival," said Mr. Damon. "Goodness sakes, Mavis Staples was simply outstanding. She is an incredible singer. She's definitely one of a kind."

Dot Jones, of Thomson, agreed.

"Ms. Staples was so entertaining," said Mrs. Jones. "She is such a personable entertainer. I thought it was a great festival. Everybody seemed to have enjoyed themselves so much."

As for Kimberly Lipscomb, seeing Ms. Staples perform was like the first time.

"I drove down here from Atlanta just to see Mavis Staples perform," said Ms. Lipscomb. "This is the fifth time that I have seen her perform in person. I'll drive anywhere to watch her perform. She's fantastic."

Shirley Maddox, the fire chief of the Hancock State Prison in Sparta, is another big fan of Ms. Staples, who like Ms. Lipscomb stood as close as she could to the stage to watch Ms. Staples and her band members perform such famous hits as "I'll Take You There," and "Let's Do It Again."

"I haven't enjoyed myself like this in a long, long time," said Ms. Maddox. "She's an exceptional entertainer. I'm so glad that I came."

Web posted on Thursday, May 15, 192008

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