Rochester tying together power of blues with Cocheco River in downtown

Union Leader Correspondent
July 15. 2014 9:39PM
Last year, booths lined North Main Street and attracted guests as Rochester hosted a blues and barbecue festival. This year’s event is scheduled for July 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER — Organizers hope tangy flavors of sound and substance will continue to entice area residents to the downtown and bring them back to the city.

The third annual Blues Festival will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on North Main Street and the Cocheco Riverwalk in the downtown.

After holding the first year along Hanson Street, for the second year the festival has been centered at the Cocheco Riverwalk, which offers a naturally shaded amphitheater overlooking the water, according Jeff Bisson, chair of the events committee with Rochester Main Street.

“The event has had a great turn out since its first year,” Bisson said, adding crowds surged into the city even though the festival occurred during a heat wave.

“We are hoping to come close to the 1,000-person mark this year, which is an excellent position for only a third-year event,” Bisson said in the e-mail.

This year’s festival includes performances from Just by Chance, Poor Howard and Bullfrog Rogers, Rick Watson & Friends, Gene Sibley Blues Band, Linda Pouliot and T.J. Wheeler & the Smokers as well as a barbecue contest and numerous vendors in the downtown.

“These are all great talents and with Rochester having so many venues for entertainment it is a natural fit to be able to draw people to the downtown and show them the quality of entertainment available,” Bisson said in an e-mail.

“That is really what the Main Street program is all about. No one group can do everything. It is really about building partnerships between local businesses, city officials, nonprofits and concerned citizens to help downtown thrive as both a cultural hot spot as well as thriving business community,” Bisson said in the e-mail.

The festival joins other events, including Free Comic Book Day, the Horribles Parade/Zombie Walk and the new Festival of Trees, which draw crowds to the downtown.

As the owner of Happy Pappy’s Country Store, Bisson said “we have always had great bounce back to our store after every event we do with Rochester Main Street.”

Bisson said businesses which handed out coupons during the recent Great American Race — a partnership between Rochester Main Street and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce – “had an immediate bounce back of several hundred dollars by the end of the week.”

Area residents are encouraged to bring lawn chairs to enjoy the free blues festival.

Last year, the barbecue contest allowed local restaurants to “highlight the great quality of food” offered around the city, which helped tie the festival to the downtown and entice area residents to return, Bisson said.

For $5, participants can sample and help decide on the People’s Choice Award. Restaurants will also compete for top honors for best chicken, ribs, pulled pork and brisket.

Barbecue vendors, crafts and games will line the upper end of North Main Street and the city’s parking lot.

Merchants throughout the downtown will be open and are invited to participate in sidewalk activities in front of their businesses.


During the event, which also includes face painting and a bounce house, traffic along North Main Street will be re-routed along River and Bridge Streets from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to allow the festival vendors to set up and provide pedestrian safety.


The Blues Festival, which is organized by Rochester Main Street, is sponsored by D.F. Richard Energy. The barbecue contest is sponsored by Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, PA.

For more information, contact the Rochester Main Street office at 330-3208 or go to

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