The one constant was a headliner featuring a top blues guitarist who would thrill fans with screaming strings.
For the ninth year, the festival's organizing committee of Jill Murray, Scott Murray, Russell Griffith and Jenny Crawford have planned something new -- an all-diva show that will be dominated by soaring, soulful voices of some of the top women blues singers in the country.
"The all-diva show was derived from a strong desire to showcase women in the music world," Jill Murray said. "These divas ... have been an inspiration to me and I want to promote them."
Murray said she grew up listening to singers like Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, Carole King and Etta James, among many others. Her own experience as a singer helps her appreciate how tough the music business can be, she added.
Murray noted the term "diva" is meant as a compliment to the women featured at the festival this year.
"The definition of a 'diva' from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is '... a usually glamorous
and successful female performer or personality,'" Murray said. "I was told that all female singers sound alike. I believe that these divas will prove that statement to be wrong."
According to Murray, Miss Major & Her Minor Mood Swings is a little rockabilly with a little sass.
Bella Soul, featuring Tina Haase Findlay, has an "in your face" sound that fuses together many different genres, she said.
"Tina's voice reminds me of the Phoebe Snow that inspired me many years ago," she said. "Cee Cee James has been said to be Janis Joplin reincarnated, but even though her voice at times is similar, she has her own sound that is raw and real."
Sharon Lewis has a tasteful sound from the the Chicago blues tradition, and Trampled Under Foot featuring Danielle Schnebelen has been winning blues music awards and impressing audiences for several years.
"This girl's voice can bring you to your knees with so much conviction you just want more," Murray said.
She said the new approach is part of her continuing effort to keep the festival new and exciting every year.
"Selecting bands for the event is one of the duties that I look forward to each year," Murray said. "There are so many great bands that deserve recognition."
The mission, though, is not just about providing exposure for great blues bands. Organizers also hope each year to make a few converts to the blues.
"One thing I would like to relay to all the people I have come across who say they don't know if they like the blues: The Bear Creek Blues Festival showcases many different types of the blues so it doesn't all sound the same," she said. "We have rockabilly/country, traditional blues, jazzy blues, Chicago blues, swing blues and any other kind of blues that is out there."
While there is something new every year at the festival, some things stay the same for the sake of continuity and popularity. Among them, the guitar raffle.
This year, the guitar is a Cedar Henna Paradise acoustic/electric made by
Luna. As always, it will be signed by all performers and comes with a case, stand, strap and picks.
"It has a gorgeous etched design on it," Murray said. "We are grateful that The Vox Box in Marshall co-sponsored it again this year."
Another familiar feature will be the conclusion of the show. After the last note rings out, the sky will light up with fireworks.
Band merchandise, CDs and T-shirts will be available. There will be plenty of beverage and food vendors selling a variety of things, from fish, shish-ka-bob, crab rangoon and wings barbecue, hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos and more.
Organizers encourage people to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Umbrellas are allowed to fend off the sun, but fans are asked to be considerate of others and not block anyone else's view.
Free primitive camping is available in the park across from the football field. There is
also camping available at the Only Way Fishing Club in Slater for a nominal fee.
Advance tickets are available at The Vox Box in Marshall, Slater City Hall and Video Visions in Slater.
New this year, you can purchase tickets online at the festival website. Ticket prices are $15 in advance, $20 at gate for ages 13 and older, $6 for ages 5-12 and 4 and under get in free.
No coolers, pets, ATVs or golf carts are allowed.
Murray credits the event's continued growth to a loyal group of volunteers and sponsors.
Gates open at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30, at the Slater football field. The concert will begin at 3 p.m.
Trampled Under Foot:
Cee Cee James:
Miss Major & Her Minor Mood Swings: