Upon reading your article "What Next for the Blues Fest?", here are my thoughts:

First, in the early years, the Blues Fest mainly booked local and area acts. Many good musicians rehearsed for hours to give excellent performances for very small compensation. There was no admission at the gate, the festival bands pleased the crowds, and, thanks to selfless musicians and organizers such as Jason Stuart (now of Cobalt Blue), the thrill was definitely there.

Then the fest grew, and many more-expensive national acts were booked, thus replacing most of the local acts. At some point, a local band pretty much had to win an Iowa Blues Challenge to be accepted as a Blues Fest act. Most of the good performance times (later in the day) were given to the national acts. Featuring more local blues musicians and bands would definitely be in alignment with the Mississippi Valley Blues Society's charter of fostering education and keeping the blues alive. So why not book more local acts, but pay them better for their efforts and support?

It is never wise to spend more than you are bringing in. So why not scale back? Make the fest a day shorter until it builds. Many excellent and supportive local musicians that have been edged out of the festival could be resentful. It may not be easy to win back their support and participation, but it's worth a try. Let's begin by hiring and even honoring local musicians such as Jason Stuart who helped build the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest.

Every article I've read concentrates on the negative effects of weather, flooding, and lax fundraising. Yes, these are important, but as restructuring of the fest occurs, others factors need to be considered.

The thrill may be gone, but just for now.

Larry Huntley
Local Blues Fest participant and fan of the blues

Photos from the 2013 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, held July 4 through 6 in downtown Davenport.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Photo by Matt Erickson, MRE-Photography.com

Mighty Sam McClain. Photo by Matt Erickson, MRE-Photography.com

After the River Cities' Reader's official guide to the 2013 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival went to press, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society announced that the festival was being moved from LeClaire Park to Second Street in downtown Davenport because of flooding:

Mississippi Valley Blues Festival organizers have finalized the site for the July 4-6 event in downtown Davenport. The 29th Mississippi Valley Blues Festival will take place on Second Street. Bandshell acts will perform on an east-facing stage near Ripley Street. Tent Stage acts will perform in the courtyard area just east of the River Music Experience at Second and Main. BlueSKool will be held on the River Music Experience's Community Stage, and workshops and the photo exhibit will be held in the River Music Experience's upstairs Exhibit Hall.

Selwyn Birchwood Band, 3 p.m.

CD Baby says it best about Selwyn Birchwood's CD FL Boy: "Eclectic original tunes ranging from swampy roots music to upbeat front-porch blues to hip-shakin' funk grooves." That description applies to his band's high-energy live shows, too.

When I heard the Selwyn Birchwood Band at the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge in February, it was obvious to me that it was the best band in the finals. For the past few years, I've disagreed with and been disappointed by the winning bands chosen at the IBC finals, but in 2013 the judges got it right. The Selwyn Birchwood Band was chosen number one out of more than 200 bands in the competition, and Selwyn Birchwood won the Albert King award for best guitarist.

Kevin "B.F." Burt, 4 p.m.

For more than 20 years, Coralville's Kevin "B.F." Burt has been electrifying audiences throughout the nation, dispelling the myth that true blues has no roots in Iowa. His soul-inspired presentation is unique, which consistently gets him compared to a range of artists including Bill Withers and Aaron Neville, with the ability to build an audience rapport that has been compared with greats such as B.B. King.

Kevin is a self-taught musician (vocals, harmonica, and guitar) who has also had some stage-acting experience. In the off-Broadway play Klub Ka, the Blues Legend, Kevin played Papa Gee and arranged all of the blues music. The play, which originally ran in Iowa City and then in Washington, DC, also had a two-week run at LaMama's Experimental Theater in New York City and was sold out each night. Kevin has also had roles in several other plays at the University of Iowa - for example, playing Whining Boy in the acclaimed August Wilson play The Piano Lesson.

Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge, 3 p.m.

The first Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge final round is being held at the festival this year with three bands vying for a chance to be named the victor. Each of the bands will play for 20 minutes, with the winner of the challenge qualifying for the 30th International Blues Challenge in Memphis, as well as receiving a paid bandshell slot in this year's Mississippi Valley Blues Festival - at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.

The challenge started with three preliminary rounds at the sponsoring venue, The Muddy Waters in Bettendorf, where one band from each round advanced to the finals. The Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge preliminary rounds featured a strong field of competitors, including Harris Collection, the Jared Hughes Band, Mississippi Misfits, and Wheelhouse.

The three bands that advanced to the finals were the Chris Avey Band, Serious Business, and the Rock Island Rollers - playing Friday in that order.

Winter Blues AllStars, 4 p.m.

The Winter Blues AllStars is composed of talented young musicians selected from the River Music Experience's Winter Blues program. The annual Winter Blues program features vocal and instrumental workshops (guitar, bass, harmonica, keyboards, and drums), as well as a concentration on blues composition and improvisation. These sessions are open to musicians from eight to 18 years of age, and are led by Ellis Kell of the RME and Hal Reed of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, as well as veteran blues musicians from the region as special guests.

Here's some information on the AllStars from the December 2012 session.

Reverend Raven & the Chain-Smokin' Altar Boys, 3 p.m.

I agree with how its Web site describes Reverend Raven & the Chain-Smokin' Altar Boys as playing "traditional blues, straight up with a big dose of passion. With smoking grooves, served up with hot harmonica and smooth, stinging guitar, they play original songs peppered with nods to Slim Harpo, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and the three Kings."

In 1971, the Reverend saw Freddie King in his hometown of Chicago. That's when Rik Raven decided he wanted to play guitar. After serving our country in the Navy, he came back stateside and settled in Wisconsin, where he backed up Madison Slim (longtime harmonica player for Jimmy Rogers) for 10 years. Eventually, he formed the Chain-Smokin' Altar Boys and started opening for greats such as B.B. King, Gatemouth Brown, and Elvin Bishop. The Wisconsin Music Industry awarded them "Best Blues Band" in 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2010.

Detroit Larry Davison & Chris Avey, 4 p.m.

Detroit Larry Davison and Chris Avey are both veteran blues musicians on the Quad Cities scene. They are both stellar performers - Larry on harp and Chris on guitar and vocals. Together, their acoustic act sounds like Maxwell Street transported to your front porch.

Larry is acknowledged by local listeners - including other harp players - as the best harmonica player in town. He's been a vital part of many bands, including the Ellis Kell Band and John Resch & the Detroit Blues. And he took the stage in Memphis as part of the Avey Brothers Band when they reached the finals of the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge in 2010. (They were the only real blues band in the finals, but the judges were after something else.)

You'll be seeing a lot of Chris Avey at the 2013 blues fest. Besides this acoustic set with Larry, Chris heads the Chris Avey Band (finalists in the Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge), and the Avey Brothers are the host band for the 2013 after-fest showcase.

David Horwitz (blues photography workshop)
Friday July 5, 2:30 pm.

Photographer and educator David Horwitz of Tucson, Arizona, has been traveling to clubs and festivals for decades in search of great blues music for his ears and visual images to capture on film. Winner of the 1999 Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Photography, David has spent more than 25 years capturing moments of the blues masters. His works have appeared in countless publications. In 2011, he was inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame. This is his 26th year of shooting the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, and the free photo exhibit near the workshops will showcase David's work.