Celebrating its 27th year, this is not just Portland or Oregon’s largest festival: It’s the largest blues fest west of the Mississippi River. With entry by suggested donation or by purchasing festival passes, the Waterfront Blues Fest is also the biggest fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank each year, netting more than $4 million in the past five years. Family-friendly and featuring plenty of local talent as well as instantly recognizable classics from blues, funk and rock legends, spending Independence Day on the banks of the Willamette River will also earn you a front row seat for the city’s most impressive display of fireworks. The four days of blues by the river are bolstered by day and nighttime action including DME Blues Cruises on the Portland Spirit and After-Hours All-Stars performances featuring many of the bill’s top names—like Maceo Parker and John Nemeth & The Bo-Keys this year.
Thursday, July 3 to Sunday, July 6
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, OR
$10 suggested daily donation or a variety of inclusive passes starting at $60. Note: Admission to the Spectacular Sunday lineup featuring the Gregg Allman Band (including Ex-PDX musician Jay Collins)—Allman has been forced to cancel due to health reasons; Curtis Salgado will replace him—Boz Scaggs, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Linda Hornbuckle, Chris Bergson Band, Ural Thomas & the Pain and many more will only be available by purchasing a festival pass.
Come early so you can score the ideal location to catch your fest favorites, then relax and take in the tunes.
Attracting all ages, this festival definitely skews older with families and groups making a day of it by selecting a prime spot in front of the stage that features the acts they want to catch. Low beach chairs, blankets and coolers are allowed but you’ll have to leave your booze at home (and purchase beer and wine on-site). If you plan to camp out in the sun all day, bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat. That said, once you’ve staked out a spot, feel free to divide and conquer (preferably leaving one watch behind) by bouncing around the fest to see what’s happening on each of the four stages (including crossing beneath the Hawthorne Bridge to the checkered zydeco dance floor—which is always lively).