Napa’s 11th annual Blues, Brews & BBQ was such a hit that it won over a vegetarian who doesn’t drink beer.
Tom Overton, who works in Napa and plays at Porchfest, said he’s been to the festival a few times, even though he doesn’t partake in the brews or barbecue. It’s all about the music for Overton, who came to support his friend’s band, the Johnny Smith Group.
He arrived near the beginning of the festival with his lawn chair around noon and staked out a spot in the shade to enjoy the performance. In the coming hours, Overton said, he looked forward to watching Alvon Johnson.
“This is awesome,” he said.
The festival shut down First Street in downtown Napa from Main to Franklin streets. The free event ran from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, though dozens of visitors arrived early, checking out vendors and stages as the first bands began to warm up, to claim spots in the shade.
Blues, Brews & BBQ featured Bay Area bands, 40 micro-brewed beers and 15 barbecue vendors. Others sold ice cream, wine, frozen bananas, purses, cigars, hats and kettle corn.
Visitors crouched on sidewalks in the shade and chatted over beers at standing tables set up throughout the First Street venue. There were dogs, families, couples and guests of all ages.
Part of the fun for Overton’s friend, Paula Sullivan of Vacaville, was people-watching.
“Everybody’s having a good time,” Sullivan said. It’s “beautiful weather.”
Sam Miller of Napa, who arrived before noon to grab a shady spot near the festival’s main stage, came for the blues, like Overton and Sullivan. Miller said he comes to Blues, Brews & BBQ every year and enjoys sipping on beers and eating barbecue as he watches artists.
The downtown location gives people room to meander, Miller said. He fondly recalled joining in the rib-eating contest in years past and said that watching people enjoy the music and dance is just as much fun as watching the bands.
“It’s probably my favorite festival that we do,” he said.
This year, he said, he cleared his calendar and came prepared with books and a lawn chair.
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Sacramento residents Deidre and Jeff Harris, however, stumbled upon the event. The couple recently moved to Northern California and decided to explore in Napa on Saturday.
“We turned the corner and there it was,” Jeff said.
“We’re excited,” Diedre said shortly before heading off to explore the event.
In the beer garden, Rick Wheeler and Sadie Allen of Fairfield had just grabbed their first drink from Seismic Brewing.
Blues, Brews & BBQ had a relaxed feel, Allen said. Wheeler said he noticed that the event crowd grew quickly after it opened.
Joan Con of Napa, who enjoyed food near the main stage, said she had been to Blues, Brews & BBQ a few times before. It is good to be with friends and enjoy the music, she said.
Con, a Michigan native, said she tries to attend all of Napa’s events. “We don’t have fun things like this (in Michigan),” she said.
Teresa Randall of Napa sat on a bench in the shade as she waited for her husband, a barbecue enthusiast, to bring back food. Randall said they have a smoker at home and her husband enjoys getting tips from the vendors.
Randall said it’s her third time at the event, and she enjoyed getting barbecue and chatting with people about their favorite vendors.
Napa residents John and Barb Scholl said they also enjoyed Napa’s festivals and were in their fourth or fifth year of attending the event. The couple said they enjoyed the rib-eating contests of previous years, people-watching and running into friends on the busy street.
“There’s nothing to dislike,” Barb said, adding it’s a good reason to “get off the couch on a Saturday.”
Lisa and Joe Winograde, of Napa, sipped beverages nearby as they watched Billy Johnson perform on the main stage. They always come to Napa events and enjoy supporting the local musicians, Joe said, but this year’s Blues, Brews & BBQ was special because it fell on Lisa’s birthday.
“This is a good memory right here,” he said.