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2013-07-19 / Features

When everyone becomes family BOUNDARY WATERS BLUES FEST: good vibes

By Mike Jankovec
HTF Contributor

ELY - I have often described the Boundary Waters Blues Fest as having a backyard blues party atmosphere. And off the top of my head, I can think of over a half dozen past performers who refer to us (at the event) as “Family.”

To further explain what it’s like to those who have not experienced the event, let me take you on sort of a virtual tour and walk you through a day in the life of the Boundary Waters Blues Fest.

Whether you have driven just a few blocks or a few hundred miles to get to the event, the anticipation builds as you pass through Ely and wind your way through the streets of Winton to the Longbranch towards the location on Fall Lake.

As you pass the public boat launch and have your first interaction with a B.W.B.F. volunteer, you will immediately begin to realize that this is no ordinary festival. You will be greeted at the entrance and directed to parking and check in, just like any other festival. But that is where the similarities end.

You will notice it’s not that fakey, big- box store type greeting mumbled under the breath of a disgruntled employee. Rather, we greet you with smiles and you will find that everyone is cordial, friendly and willing to help.

Everyone you encounter at the event seems like an old friend. B.W.B.F. veterans and volunteers alike are genuinely happy to have you there. As you pass over the threshold to Bluesville and park your vehicle, you officially become part of the B.W.B.F. family.

You are now part of an illustrious group of like-minded blues fans whose primary mission is to have a great time and soak up the summer sun while taking in spectacular blues performances at an event unlike any other.

As you saunter up to the chec- in area to purchase or trade in your tickets for wristbands, you breathe deep the aroma of clean water and pine accented with the delectable scent of Green Mill pizza or freshly prepared food from one of our other fantastic food vendors.

As you continue to wander and explore, you can visit our other non-food vendors that circle the performance area and shop a wide array of items including jewelry, art glass, pottery, etc. A primitive encampment will be set up on the grounds near the event stage with demonstrations and many other peripheral activities and sideshows that set this event apart from any music festival you have ever attended.

Inside the performance area you can enjoy beer, wine or a tasty libation at the full liquor Blues Bar that is open during the entire event and shop for official B.W.B.F. gear at the “merch” tent between performances.

If you choose to spend the entire evening with us, prepare to experience “Blues Camp.” No camping location is far from the lake and everyone at blues camp is a good camping neighbor.

When the stage and after-party performances are over, the party does not have to end. You can always find the warm glow of a fire welcoming both old and new friends to enjoy campfire jams or sing-alongs and even surprise visits from an event performer or two.

If the description of this event makes it sound like some sort of blues nirvana, quite frankly folks, it is! It has become a favorite of concert goers and musicians over the years for good reason.

But I don’t want you to just take my word for it - after all, I am a little biased. Pick up a Hometown Focus next week for testimonials from some B.W.B.F. veterans who can tell you, first hand, what this esoteric and unlikely little blues event is really all about.

Michael Jankovec is president of Boundary Waters Blues Festival, Inc., and lives in Ely, MN. Visit HYPERLINK “” for festival info.

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