Kat Riggins performs with the Gabe Stillman Band on June 11, 2021 at the Billtown Blues Festival at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville, Pa. Riggins was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the contemporary blues category.

Hughesville, Pa. -- The cancellation of the Billtown Blues Festival in 2020 because of COVID-19 was a tough call to make. But after a long, quiet year, 2021 marked the triumphant return of the 31st Annual Billtown Blues Festival.

Held this past June 11-13, The Billtown Blues Festival, is a unique attraction in Lycoming County. The festival draws nationally known touring and recording Blues artists to the Lycoming County Fairgrounds in Hughesville, Pa. Notable musicians on this year’s schedule included Kat Riggins, who performed with the Gabe Stillman Band, Lower Case Blues, and Reverend Payton’s Big Damn Band, to name just a few.  

When asked why the Billtown Blues Festival is unique, Gabe Stillman said, “no matter if you’re a local band or a national act, you’re playing for an hour.” This allows attendees of the festival to get to know the local talent, while also taking in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a big name.

CL Blues & The Company, the blues performance group with the Uptown Music Collective, performed at the festival on Friday. The Collective teaches many genres of music, but places a large emphasis on Blues music, which helps keep this all-American music genre thriving.

In addition to the music, festival goers had the opportunity to eat. There were many types cuisine from vendors including Grilled Cheese Cafe, and Derone’s Dynamite Dogs and others. One notable addition to the good eats was Southern-NY BBQ. 

All the way from Kentucky, it was Mike and Lisa Titus’ first time selling their food up north. Lisa said, “the festival is one of the best ones we’ve been to when it comes to music. Incredible!” 

The name Southern-NY BBQ is derived from Mike and Lisa’s roots. Mike is  from Kentucky and Lisa is originally from New York, so they combined the places together to make their name. A signature dish: pork ribs Mike smokes himself, slathered with his own spice blend. “This is real southern cooking,” said Mike, right here in central Pennsylvania.

The Billtown Blues Festival is a source of pride for lots of people in the area. It’s a festival that showcases genuine American music that centers around the human experience, and appeals to all types. Being around for 31 years has allowed many people to grow up with the festival and its music, including. musician Gabe Stillman who has been a part of the festival in some way or another since he was twelve years old.

“It’s tradition for me. This is my Christmas, my New Year’s, my Thanksgiving, my birthday, July 4th. Some people mark the passing of time by those holidays,” said Stillman, “I mark the passing of time by the Billtown Blues Festival.”

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