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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 12.0° F  Fair
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Picnic basket full of blues
Top Wisconsin players converge on Warner Park
Bryan helps raise the profile of Madison blues.
Bryan helps raise the profile of Madison blues.

The Madison Blues Society's annual Blues Picnic has always been a fund-raiser for the organization. But society president Catherine DeValk says the free event hasn't always raised much in the way of funds.

This year should be different. For one thing, DeValk thinks the society can build on the success of last spring's inaugural Wisconsin Blues Challenge by featuring winner Bobby Bryan and the Original Downtown Players Band in the headline spot. The society's also taking care to watch its purse strings this time around.

"This year we're living within our budget," DeValk says. "We're also hoping that we'll get more donations than we used to get. The whole thing is going to be a lot more refined than it has been."

While the weather hasn't always cooperated, the Blues Picnic has attracted more patrons in recent years, and this Saturday DeValk hopes to see as many as 3,000 blues lovers make it out to Warner Park. That sounds ambitious, but DeValk says that "people are looking at us as something of a replacement for the Madison Blues Festival."

DeValk's banking on an all-Wisconsin lineup to draw those kinds of numbers. Although Chicago guitarist Michael Coleman is playing the official post-picnic party at the Harmony Bar, the seven acts playing the picnic are all Badgers. In part, the local focus is the direct result of budgetary constraints. But the society is also dedicated to raising the profile of local players, and DeValk thinks that this year's picnic will do just that. The Charles Walker Blues Band, Tate & 008 Band, Cash Box Kings and Livin' Will are among the bands slated to appear.

DeValk says that a portion of the money raised at the Blues Picnic could be used to bring national acts to town later in the year. "We're trying to live by our mission statement," she says, "and that's to bring more blues to the area. We need more blues here, especially national acts. There just aren't enough of them."

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