John T. Martin – Henderson Gleaner

HENDERSON, Ky. — Brian Bishop recalled the pre-pandemic “good old days,” when the only thing W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival organizers had to worry about was rain.

COVID-19 has changed all of that. The festival is going forward for 2021 after the pandemic forced its 2020 cancelation, and Bishop, the event’s chairman, said virus safety will be a priority as the crowd gathers and performers hit the stage.

The free festival at Downtown Henderson’s Audubon Mill Park is June 16-19. The outdoor setting offers some added protection from COVID-19, although organizers have encouraged attendees to be vaccinated.

All federal, state and local health protocols that remain by mid-June will be used at the festival.

“I know the committee is excited,” Bishop said. “We’re cautiously optimistic. We’re not out of the woods with COVID, but we’re working hard to have a safe festival. After the year we’ve had, we need things like this, the committee included.”

Bishop also is excited about the lineup of blues performers, which is a mix of returnees and newcomers.

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Walter Trout, who closes out the event’s last night, is among the most familiar names. Samantha Fish, another familiar name, has the 8 p.m. slot that evening.

Bishop said a new act he looks forward to hearing is Larkin Poe, who have the 8 p.m. slot on the festival’s Friday.

Larkin Poe is a sister duo based in Nashville featuring descendants of Edgar Allan Poe.

Bishop said Kingfish Ingram, who closes the festival’s first night, is a dynamic performer. 

“We’re super excited,” he said. “I think it’s the best Handy lineup we’ve ever had.”

Handy Festival schedule of performers

June 16

June 17

June 18

June 19

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