August Blues fest gets farmed out to Oregon Ridge

THE BALTIMORE SUN

This year's Hot August Blues Festival won't be held on Brad Selko's family farm in Monkton.

The 30-acre homestead, where nationally known and local musicians convened each summer for performances amid bucolic pastures, was sold last year when it became too much for the 53-year-old widower to handle.

But Selko, also the festival's director, says the event's new location won't affect the personal atmosphere for which the daylong celebration is known.

"It was really fun. It was wonderful there," Selko said of the former site, where 10 HAB concerts have taken place.

He's confident that the same serene mood will be re-created Saturday at woody Oregon Ridge Park, where the 11th annual festival will be held.

"It's really cool. It has the same feeling, it's just bigger," Selko said.

The larger Cockeysville venue can accommodate more roots music aficionados than was possible in years past, when 1,000 people filled Selko's old Baltimore County farm to capacity.

Saturday's festival, he hopes, will draw more than 2,000 attendees.

Selko is in favor of the expansion because a larger crowd means more money for the festival's charitable organization, the Marcia's Kids Endowment Fund.

Named after his wife, who passed away in 1999, the charity gives camp scholarships to local at-risk and underprivileged youth.

During the weeklong adventures, campers participate in workshops and classes that teach the fundamentals of blues and roots music.

Those kinds of basics will be polished and on display at noon Saturday, when Baltimore legends Scott Cunningham and "Choo-Choo" Charlie Williams take the stage.

The local bluesmen will kick off the extensive lineup, which also includes headliner and Grammy Award winner Delbert McClinton.

But world-class performances aren't the only feature of the 10-hour festival.

In the spirit of the cause, Williams will offer a few post-set music workshops for kids.

Harmonica and percussion skills will be covered during the half-hour sessions, which begin at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The interactive lessons are an important part of the event, Selko said, because the Hot August Blues Festival is really about sharing a passion with friends and strangers alike.

"Music makes you feel good," he said. "It will be a really good, rockin' show."

Oregon Ridge Park is at 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville. Festival hours are noon-10 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate. Children under 12 are free. For more information, call 866-321-FEST or visit www.hotaugustblues.com.

For more club events, see Page 38.

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