A new, compelling tradition for the City of Falls Church was launched last summer with the first Tinner Hill Blues Festival, drawing blues aficionados from throughout the region to Cherry Hill Park and other venues for two days of great and historic music and performers.
The tradition is now turning the corner into its second year, undeterred by the economic recession that has cut deeply into its corporate and individual fundraising efforts. Organizer Nikki Graves Henderson is so confident in the economic benefit to the local economy of the festival, that she’s willing for now to offer free advertising at the fete for local businesses.
This year’s festival runs from Friday, June 12, through Sunday, June 14, replete with live music at a variety of venues in Falls Church, a scholarly panel on Saturday, the awarding of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation’s annual “Dear Editor” student writing contest winners, an art exhibition, book readings and some video documentaries.
The festival this year is a tribute to the late John Jackson, the life-long Falls Church area resident who is considered a seminal influence in the development of the Piedmont blues. The blues festival concept is a morphing of the annual summer festival of the Tinner Hill Foundation, in conjunction with the City of Falls Church, aimed at celebrating the influence of African-Americans in the region’s history.
It’s included the fact that the first rural chapter of the NAACP was founded in Falls Church in the early 20th century by Dr. Edwin B. Henderson (1883-1977), who was a prolific writer of letters to the editor advocating for racial equality: hence, the annual “Letter to the Editor” writing contest in his memory. The contest is in its 11th year, and in addition to the Tinner Hill Foundation, is sponsored by the Washington Post and Diener and Associates, CPAs.
The foundation announced this year’s contest winners, noting they are all students at Falls Church’s George Mason High School. Ranked from first to 10th place, the winners are Rebecca Gomez, Rachel Leahy, Danielle Agress, Daniel Fletcher, Patrick Anderson, Elle Silverman, Michael Irvine, Parameswar Chembukare, Sarah Ann Geren and Crawford Taylor.
The centerpiece of the blues festival is Saturday from 1 to 8 p.m. at the Cherry Hill Park in downtown Falls Church. All the events are free except for the concerts at the State Theatre Friday and Saturday night. Here are some of the key events at this year’s blues festival:
Friday, June 12
• 11 a.m. Virginia Songwriters Exhibit and Gregg Kimball and Jeffrey Scott performing at Market Square (The Spectrum), 444 W. Broad St.; Hip Pocket and Fast Eddie at George Mason Square, Broad at Washington; Choo Choo Charlie and the Spitfires at Tax Analysts Plaza, 400 S. Maple Ave.
• 5 p.m. Opening reception and art exhibition featuring the works of Rik Freeman, Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center.
• 8 p.m. Benefit concert featuring Down Home Blues, Chuck Brown Sings the Blues, Bobby Parker Blues Night Band, State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St. (tickets required).
Saturday, June 13
• 8 a.m. to noon Early Bird Blues at the F.C. Farmers Market, City Hall parking lot, 201 Little Falls St.
• 10, 12 and 2 p.m. Bessie Smith book reading with Auntie Dye, M.R. Styles Public Library, 120 N. Virginia Ave.
• 10 a.m. Panel Discussion, “Whites, Blacks and Blues: The Past, Present and Politics of Blues Music,” Cherry Hill Farmhouse, 312 Park Ave.
• 1, 3, 5, 7 p.m. Video documentary: “John Jackson, A Blues Teasure,” F.C. Community Center, 223 Little Falls St.
• 1 to 8 p.m. Choo Choo Charlie, Kids Pull Stringz, Kristen Snyder Gomes, Jonah Hicks (children’s program), Cherry Hill Pavilion.
• 1 to 8 p.m. Kerry Hill’s John Jackson portrait and posters, Cherry Hill Park.
• 1 to 8 p.m. Three Chords & the Truth, Curtis Blues, Deanna Bogart, Daryl Davis First Ladies of the Blues, Angela Hill, Stacy Brooks, Ruby Hayes, Nadine Rae and the All Stars, Sheryl Warner and the Southside Homewreckers with Gregg Kimball, Warner Williams, at Cherry Hill Park.
• 2 p.m. Meet the Artist: Rik Franklin, Cherry Hill Park.
• 2:30 p.m. “Dear Editor” contest winners, Cherry Hill Park.
• 8 p.m. Lonnie Landrenth Blues and Zydeco, State Theatre (tickets required).
Sunday, June 14
• 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Blues Brunch & Blues Jam Tribute, Friends of John Jackson and John Cephas, Bangkok Blues, 926 W. Broad.
• 4 to 7 p.m. M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio and “Color Me Blue” art exhibit, Shreve McGonegal showroom, 212 N. West St.