Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival


It’s not white, it’s not black, it’s the blues…. The saying tells it all. There are no whites there. There are no blacks there. The only people there are those that love blues music. There is plenty to listen to. The fest starts on Thursday and lasts until midnight Saturday night. It is free, supported by sponsors and through the sales of “blues bucks” which are used to purchase food and drink from authorized vendors. The second weekend of October every year for the last 21, there has been a blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. Until last year, it was officially known as the King Biscuit Blues Festival. At that time, a demand was made for royalties to be paid to use the name King Biscuit. So, the name is changed to the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival ( But, to the people attending and performing, it will always be known as King Biscuit or just the Biscuit. The main stage faces a sloping area up to the railroad track. A little ways over the hill past the railroad track is the Mississippi River. People bring their chairs, sit and listen. The sloping area is grass except for one walkway and the railroad track. We go on Saturday. The music starts at noon with lesser known acts. After about 6pm, the better known names perform. We enjoy almost all. We usually pick up a CD of the lesser known act that we particularly enjoy. It is a small festival and after you buy the CD, you get into the next line and get it autographed by the musicians. This year we purchased a CD of Watermelon Slim and the Workers. They were the second act and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Of course, Slim was waiting to sign the CD’s. Walking over next to the plastic fence that partitioned off the “back stage” area, I also got the signatures of Lil Ronnie Mack (boy, can he play guitar) and Michael Newberry (good also, but he is the drummer). Yes, alcohol is sold but never a problem. I could walk around with my son while he was small and never worry about anyone bothering either one of us. People get up and dance with strangers. Walking down between the chairs might get you a partner you have never met but you are friends because you are both at the blues fest so you might dance a turn or two before you go on by. Sometimes the performers walk around through the crowd while playing. King Bis… Oops, Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival is held rain or shine. This year the weather was marvelous. One year the first group was the Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings (they were fantastic). It was colder in Arkansas than it had been in Chicago when they left there. There have been years when they moved indoors briefly while the rain went past and then had to spread straw and cardboard down for people to walk around the next day. Maybe you’ll get to go to the Biscuit. Just remember your lawn chair and hat or umbrella. A jacket might come in handy some years.