Cheers were heard across the park as Mr. Sipp, also known as “The Mississippi Blues Child,” made his way through the crowd while shredding on his guitar.
With rows of chairs stacked on the lawn with dogs, food vendors and children and families dancing, the Denton Blues Fest jammed out this weekend through Denton’s classic way: music.
“What [the Blues Fest] means to me [is] connecting with people,” said John Baines, certified public accountant and treasurer of the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce.
Hosted by the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce, the 23rd annual Denton Blues Fest took place this weekend at Quakertown Park. With performers from across the country, Denton residents flocked to the event for a weekend of food and music.
Blues is a genre of music which is uniquely American. Originating in the Deep South around the 1860s from slave songs and spirituals, this genre has been used to express hardships faced by the Black community and those of an economic or social disadvantage, according to the African American Intellectual History Society’s website.
Hosting the Denton Blues Fest in Quakertown Park holds historical significance for Denton’s Black community.
Quakertown was a freedmen’s town established in Denton in 1875. Black residents were later removed by the Denton government in the 1920s as it was in close proximity to the Girl’s Industrial College, later Texas Woman’s University, and to make room for Civic Center Park, now called Quakertown Park, according to the TWU website.
Mayor Gerard Hudspeth, a Denton native, said the Denton Blues Fest honors Denton’s difficult and storied past.
“[The Blues Fest] mirrors the community,” Hudspeth said. “It [attracts] one of our more diverse crowds and Blues has a deep history of overcoming [and] pressing through which lines up with Denton’s history. What a great place to come back and fellowship and share stories of perseverance.”
The Blues Fest was filled with performances from artists such as Mr. Sipp, who won the 2014 International Blues Challenge, Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King, Mike Zito and other renowned Blues artists.
Vendors from across North Texas were also at the fest to provide food and other goods to attendees.
Jackie Lawson, Denton resident and co-owner of Simply Marvelous Catering which is a catering company based in Denton, came to the festival to promote her business and experience the music.
“The pandemic kept us in last year so we didn’t get to fellowship,” Lawson said. “Now, I’m listening to all this good music and smelling the aroma of everything [cooking].”
Veronica Powell was drawn to the Blues Fest to get further connected with the Denton community. A member of the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Cookie Crave, a Black-owned nut-free bakery in Denton, Powell said she wanted to get to know people.
“How cool would it be to have a festival in Denton that’s a variety of everything: food, fun, family [and] hanging out,” Powell said. “It’s nice.”
Proceeds from the festival went to the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce, whose goal is to help people start, grow and multiply businesses. Money raised will support Denton Black Chamber of Commerce’s services and programs, such as the entrepreneurship program which connects aspiring entrepreneurs with successful business owners.
“There’s not a lot of large businesses in the African American community,” Baines said. “Part of [the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce’s] job is to fill the pipeline with people interested in businesses.”
Baines said the Blues Fest presents an opportunity to show what [people] can do.
“So, here we are,” Baines said. “We’re pulling together talent from around the world and putting together a venue.”
Featured Image: “The Mississippi Blues Child,” Mr. Sipp, plays guitar and sings among the crowd at the Denton Blues Festival on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo by Jami Hitchcock