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Wet whistles

An unexpected lagniappe was the unveiling of the new locally produced Ramona's Chipotle Dressing, a delicious, sweet and spicy multi-purpose sauce concocted by Ramona Waldecker of Baldwinsville.

[Southern blues]

The next day, Saturday July 22, the 15th annual New York State Blues Festival got off to a rainy start with just a smattering of fans on hand to hear the country blues of Paul Rishell and Annie Raines. The crowd swelled dramatically as the day progressed, however, enjoying sets by Larry McCray, Kelly Hunt and Syracuse's own Swing This!

A hastily assembled group of local blues all-stars filled in for the recently-reunited Built for Comfort, which had canceled its 6 p.m. stint on the second stage. The subsitutes rose to the occasion, as Pete McMahon, Pat DeSalvo, Rock Carbone and brothers Mike and Phil Petroff all blazed away on their respective instruments.

The audience had grown to some 6,000 strong for Elvin Bishop's headline set. The Oklahoma-bred Bishop revealed the genesis of his 1976 hit, Fooled Around and Fell In Love, by riffing an intro of The Five Satins' 1955 slow-dance In the Still of the Night.

Toward the end of Fishin, Bishop took his cordless guitar out into the friendly crowd and hooked a beautiful brunette -- Marlene Lucio of Syracuse -- to join him up onstage.

Though admission to the blues festival is free, its artistic director, Bernie Clarke, urged the Saturday-night crowd to indulge its thirst.

Beverages are how we pay the bills, he announced from the Budweiser Main Stage. The festival also had donation stations set up at Clinton Square entrances and exits. All you people who say to me, 'Bernie, why don't you book Eric Clapton?' please donate to allow the New York State Blues Festival to remain admission-free.

[Jos (c)'s homecoming]

The sun shone all day Sunday and the music beamed just as brightly as provided by Canada's Downchild Blues Band, Western New Yorkers Bruce Katz with Joe Beard followed later by Chris Beard, reservation rockers CornBred and The Blue Method.

Thousands turned out to hear the final two main-stage performances by bayou balladeer Terrance Simien and California roots rockers Little Feat.

Simien, an Cajun accordionist with a mesmerizing voice recalling a young Aaron Neville, turned up with former Syracuse-based electric guitarist Jos (c) Alvarez in tow.

Alvarez' former bandmate, Colin Aberdeen of Los Blancos, joined his old pal on the main stage to add some incendiary guitar work to the group's final fiery number.

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