COLUMBIA — Changes to the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival this year lead organizers to predict a lower turnout for the three-day event.
The festival, to be held Sept. 20-22, is moving from downtown Columbia to Stephens Lake Park, with one gate for entry. To make room for more food vendors, a barbecue contest no longer will be held. The competition had drawn as many as 60 to 70 participants, but the food was not available to festivalgoers.
“We're kind of zeroing in on our real fans,” said Richard King, owner of The Blue Note and Mojo’s and a member of the festival's board of directors.
“I don't think our numbers are going to be high, but we kind of figured that.”
In previous years, the blues festival was a free two-day event with paid admission to the staged performances. This year, Friday and Sunday tickets are $40, Saturday is $45, and a weekend pass is $75.
When it offered a free area, the festival counted more than 75,000 visitors.
Despite the changes, ticket sales are going “pretty darn good,” King said. With six more days until the festival, he said sales are currently ahead of last year.
The music, arts and culture festival will showcase roots, blues, gospel, country, folk and soul music. It will feature musicians such as The Black Crowes and Blues Traveler, as well as Mavis Staples and ZZ Ward for a total of 27 acts.
Now in its seventh year, the festival also has street art, brunch, a 10K race and half-marathon.
King said the naysayers eventually subsided, and he stressed the value ticket holders will get at the festival.
“I dare anyone to compare our ticket prices to any other festival in the country,” he said.