Ferndale Blues & Music Festival continues to give back to the community

Musical performances to be held around Ferndale area starting Jan. 29

By: Joshua Gordon | Madison - Park News | Published January 27, 2016


FERNDALE — In its 15th year, the Ferndale Blues & Music Festival not only continues to diversify its musical performances, but also its locations.

The annual festival started as a string of performances in a variety of locations in Ferndale, but this year organizer Craig Covey said there will be a performance once again in Royal Oak Township and, for the first time, a performance at Cork, a restaurant in Pleasant Ridge.

The event will kick off Jan. 29 and run through Feb. 6 at locations such as Dino’s, Rosie O’Grady’s and Como’s.

“This is live music, and Ferndale has always had a musical edge to it as a city,” Covey said. “And the fact that it is in the middle of winter, almost nothing happens in the winter with festivals all summer long, so this is sort of an antidote in the winter.”

Along with Cork, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit on Woodward Avenue is a new location, with a youth jazz performance set to take place there. In total, nearly 40 concerts will take place at 14 venues, with more locations still a possibility at paress time.

Organizers were estimating that nearly 12,000 people would come in and out of the Ferndale area for the concerts during the weeklong event.

With the addition of new locations and performances, Covey said the event is evolving, and organizers are aiming to make the festival more accessible to families and those who like a variety of music.

“We try to do some family-friendly stuff, and so this year we are going back to the pig roast, which we moved from about 11 or 12 years ago,” he said. “We decided to go retro this year and set up a big final concert at Rosie O’Grady’s with the pig roast.”

No matter the changes and additions, Covey said the music is what pulls people in, and when he helped start the Ferndale Blues & Music Festival 15 years ago, it was all about the blues, which is one of Covey’s personal favorites.

“I love the blues, always have since I was a teenager, as it is the kind of music that touches my soul,” he said. “I think the blues has ebbs and flows in terms of popularity, but here in Detroit and in the suburbs, we have a pretty strong and growing blues scene. If what we do in Ferndale helps keep that alive, then I think I am pretty gratified with that as well.”

While the music provides a good time, the festival was started in 2002 to raise money for local organizations. In total, Covey said organizers expect to raise about $20,000 this year.

The festival brings in $10,000-$12,000 in sponsorships each year, from Bud Light to Garden Fresh Gourmet founder Jack Aronson. And during the concerts, organizers circulate blue piggy banks for donations. Organizers expect the pig roast to bring in additional donations as well.

Ferndale Youth Assistance has benefited from the festival every year, and 2016 will be no different. Covey, who has a history with the organization as a board member, said it is important to help the local youth succeed.

“For me, I don’t have any children, so this is a way to give back to the next generation,” he said. “I have been involved in the Ferndale community forever, so to be able to give back, I thought the youth was a good way to go.”

The other organization that benefits this year is the MAC Health of Matrix Human Services, formerly the Michigan AIDS Coalition, which promotes HIV/AIDS prevention and education in metro Detroit.

MAC Health Project coordinator and Ferndale Blues & Music Festival organizer Monica Mills said MAC Health has a wide-reaching effect.

“We offer HIV counseling, testing and education, and we are just out there trying to keep people safe,” she said. “For over 30 years, we have provided welfare and education to the greater Detroit community, including young people.”

If the music and fundraising don’t get the people out, Covey said just the opportunity to have something to do during the cold days is a good reason to attend the festival.

“This time of year, it is tempting to want to stay in and not go out in the cold, but we need human contact and to get fresh air,” he said.

“Anyone can put on a festival in July, but it takes some tough Michigan know-how to put something on like this in the middle of January.”

For more information on the Ferndale Blues & Music Festival, including a complete performance schedule, visit www.ferndalebluesfestival.org.