By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Taking the stage, zydeco royalty Dwayne Dopsie made the audience at the 25th Black Swamp Arts Festival take a pledge.
“I’m not here to complain,” he said leading the crowd in the pledge. “I’m not here to be cold.”
No, he told them, they were there to dance, have fun, and party.
If anyone had a reason to complain about temperatures that dipped into the crisp 50s, it was a tank-top-clad son of the Bayou who only had tattoos to cover his arms. But Dopsie had other things on his mind and that was entertaining the crowd with a hard driving set of music. He pushed along his band the Zydeco Hellraisers with the antic virtuosity of his accordion over the vigorous rhythm of washboard player Paul Lafleur.
Dopsie, carrying an umbrella, even left the stage to lead a conga line of fans through the full house of listeners.
Dopsie and the Hellraisers capped off a night of music that was intense in different ways.
The show opened at 5 with the Matt Truman Ego Trip. The wise-cracking, hard rocking bar band’s tight sound held up well in the unaccustomed light of day. Frontman Matt Truman said they were honored to open what is for them a neighborhood festival, especially given it was the event’s 25th year.
“We’re from around the corner,” he said. “You probably call the cops on us when we practice.”
The local rockers gave way to the mellower, though lyrically dark, rockers from Cincinnati, The Hiders.
Then the show pivoted to Ireland. The quintet Lunasa is full of champion players. From the get-go they had audience members on their feet dancing. One woman impressed fiddler Sean Smyth so much, he awarded her a free CD.
But the music wasn’t the only attraction. Mantek Singh Bhatia, a graduate student from Indian, said he and his friends came for the music and the food.
Yes, they stood and listened to the bands, though, he didn’t know their names. He liked their music. But in time the scent from the food called.
It’s a rarity to have food trucks here in Bowling Green, he said, as he munched on barbecue.
Allison Freeman, of Bowling Green, has been attending the festival since its inception 25 years ago. She remembers the feeling of freedom, hanging out downtown as a teenager. Now she shares it with her husband, Ben, and their three young children. Their twins, now 2, came when they were just a month old.
They enjoy everything about it.
A 1998 graduate of Bowling Green High, she said the festival was like a class reunion.
When the kids get tired and cranky, she said, their grandparents will bring them home so she and her husband can enjoy themselves in the beer garden.
The family will be back during the day on Saturday to enjoy even more of what the festival has to offer.
Carney and Dorothyann Strange come back to Bowling Green just for the festival. For 38 years they lived in Bowling Green where he was a professor of higher education at BGSU and she was a photographer.
They’ve lived in Bloomington, Indiana for the past four years, always returning for the Black Swamp Arts Festival.
They love the music, the art, the food. Sometimes they are joined by one or more of their three grown children.
And the festival gives them a chance to reconnect with friends, she said.
The event has become “ritualized,” Carney Strange said. They stay in the home of one of his former students that’s across the street from the stage area. They have breakfast at Kermit’s on Saturday morning, and then they head down to view the art show.
“It kind of seals up the summer for us,” he said.
The festival continues Saturday with the Kiwanis Youth Arts Village from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the art show from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and music from noon to midnight.