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Festival honoring blues ‘father’ W.C. Handy under way


FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — An area known year round for its music kicks it up a notch for the rest of the month at the W.C. Handy Festival.

In its 41st year, the festival features some 250 events in restaurants and other venues both indoors and outdoors throughout the Shoals region of northwest Alabama.

“People ask me about it all year long,” festival chair Tori Bailey said of the annual event.

The festival, which honors Florence native and “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy, offers a variety of music and events through July 31.

In fact, it even included a sort of Handy Festival Eve celebration Thursday night with the inaugural Handy Block Party and Karaoke Idol at FloBama restaurant. The festival includes numerous daytime events as well as Handy Musical Nights at various restaurants and other venues.

“We really appreciate all of our Handy patrons, and a lot of restaurants are among our patrons,” Bailey said.

She said 30,000 Handy brochures have been printed. They can be found at various locations throughout the Shoals, and Handy T-shirts are on sale for $20, with T-shirts from previous festivals are available at discounted prices.

Dee Lucas is the headliner for this year’s festival, which starts at 7:30 p.m. on July 30 at the University of North Alabama’s Norton Auditorium. Tickets are $20 general admission and $30 for VIP seating.

This also is the first year for what will become an annual event — the W.C. Handy Kickoff Extravaganza at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia. The extravaganza features Tony Terry, Glenn Jones, Shirley Murdock, Wilson Meadows, Eric Essix, Donna Wills, the Midnighters, Travis Wammack, Vann Burchfield, King Tut and DJ Charlie Hustle.

“It’s a new event for us and’s that big for us,” Bailey said. “The lineup includes some hitmakers who have charted at the top of the charts.”

Sunday will feature a key event at the W.C. Handy Home and Museum front lawn beginning at 6 p.m. This traditionally has been known as the opening ceremonies, but beginning this year it is called the Official Handy Sunday Ceremony since the festival has expanded over the years to include the entire weekend as its opening.

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