Photo: Headliners North Mississippi Allstars closed out last weekend’s 16th annual Blues From the Top festival.  Photo by Casey Malon

Last weekend showcased another great lineup of music in the Fraser Valley as the Grand County Blues Society hosted the 16th Annual Blues From the Top Festival. Kenny Wayne Shepherd and North Mississippi Allstars headlined the two day festival at the Rendezvous Event Center in downtown Winter Park. Maria Chavez, President of the Grand County Blues Society, said it was “the best event yet”.

The Grand County Blues Society, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, is much more than a concert promoter. The organization was founded in 2002, by John Catt, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2017. Catt had a much bigger vision for the organization when he expanded the vision by founding Blue Star Connection, an organization that puts musical instruments in the hands of kids and young adults with life threatening diseases. Blue Star Connection is a program that has non-profit status, along with the Grand County Blues Society. As a program in its 10th year, Blue Star Connection has supplied over 50 Children’s Hospitals with valuable and plentiful collections of musical instruments for their music therapy departments. The organization has also gifted hundreds of individual children with personal instruments. Blue Star Connection continues to support the music therapy industry with an all-out effort and constant fundraising to continue the mission. Music Therapy needs an advocate, and they are proud to be considered a front runner.

There are Blue Stars in Colorado, Texas, California, Washington, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Florida, Illinois, South Dakota, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oklahoma, Oregon, Arizona and once upon a time, a beautiful girl named Sneha from New Delhi, India.

Chavez told the Winter Park Times that this year’s Blues from the Top “hit the mark” on attendance. She told us that Kenny Wayne Shepherd “drew one of the largest crowds ever”. Rain and cold wind on Sunday was a deterrent for some, but overall, the weekend was a huge success.

Chavez said, “we made more money, but laid out more for talent and additional overhead”.  It is preliminary on the final budget numbers, but it looks like it will work out on paper, and, “that is what we were shooting for”, said Chavez.

Maria also wanted to thank all of the people who made this event possible. “We couldn’t do it without our fantastic support group. The Town of Winter Park, Grand County Tourism Board, and the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber all play a huge role in our continued success.”

“Of course we couldn’t do it without all of our great sponsors.” Chavez said, “each year the sponsor list grows, and that has allowed us to bring a more diverse palette of talent”.

She also gives a “big thank you” to all of the volunteers and coordinators. This event is a ton of work and our team really went all out this year. “It is an all hands on deck event!”  

“We tried some different stuff this year with mixed reviews”, Chavez lamented. The kids stage is a huge part of the blues festival, and moving it out to the Vendor Village made sense, to get people out of their seats and helps utilize the entire park.  Chavez added, “If we continue in that area, we will make every effort to route sound and video back to the Jumbotron so everyone can enjoy the future of the blues.”

The Rendezvous Event Center has proven to be a world class event venue. The sound and jumbotron make for an absolutely great festival. “We are already looking forward to the next Blues from the Top Festival” Art Ferrari one of the founding members of the Blues Society.

The festival pre-sold about 3,000 tickets per day, and on Saturday, the venue was packed all the way to the back, which is closer to 5,000 people in attendance.

Tim Hubbard, Event Director and Board Member, said “Continuing to grow our talent budget is a goal and we want to fill the venue. This was a great first step toward that sell out model. We want to appeal to a broader audience.”

“The organization has come a long way in the last 10 years. We are actively searching for the right person to help us keep the mission strong and vibrant.” said Hubbard.  “We have always taken pride in the fact that we are an all volunteer program, but we don’t have the capacity to manage all of the pieces and need a full-time Membership and Events coordinator so we are hunting for a fulltime person to join the team.”

Hubbard went on to say that the National Blue Star Connection Program has grown to be a huge part of the organization’s responsibility, and it needs the right person to help manage all the details. Someone with the organizational skill to help manage all 5 programs.

For more information, or, if you would like to support the mission, visit the Grand County Blues Society web page at