GRASSY CREEK — The 17th annual New River Blues Festival returned Sunday, Sept. 1, providing soulful grooves for a crowd of more than 500 people on the sun-drenched lawn of River House Inn.

“When you have this kind of weather, it’s hard to go wrong,” event organizer Donovan Murray said.

The festival’s lineup included The Foddrells, Anthony “Packrat” Thomas and Robert “Top” Thomas, Git Shorty, Moko Ike and Val Woods, Donald Ceaser Blues Emperor and The King Bees.

The King Bees, a staple in local blues bands, helped create the festival more than 15 years ago and have appeared on stage every year since then. Celebrating their 32nd anniversary this year, The King Bees joined the stage with “Packrat” Thomas and “Top” Thomas for setlist stocked full of blues jams.

Bands traveled from across the state and region to perform in the festival, including Ike and Val Woods, who made the trip up from Miami, Murray said.

“Everybody seemed to have a good time,” Murray said. “(The bands) loved the setting and the crowd. They really enjoyed performing there.”

Murray expressed a lot of gratitude for the West Jefferson Lions Club, who handled parking during the festival, as well as River House Inn, who provided the venue and drinks for the crowd.

For next year’s festival, Murray said he will be looking into adding another vendor to help alleviate wait times for blues-lovers in attendance.

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