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Art, blues & brews on tap in New Richmond

A scene from last year's event.

Tents are being pitched and a stage is being erected as New Richmond prepares for this weekend's 44nd annual Park Art Fair and Blues and Brews Fest at Mary Park.

The celebration, which will play host to roughly 150 vendors, more than 15 breweries -- with more than 50 craft beers -- and six musical groups, is free and open to the public.

"We're seeing good registration rates," said Russ Korpela, Chamber executive director. "We're expecting one of the larger shows than we've had in previous years."

Korpela said that while 150 is technically fewer than in 2010, it's still much better than 2009.

"The price of gas is a big factor," he said. "Some of these vendors come from quite a ways."

Most of the tents open at 5 p.m. on Friday for a sneak preview of the treasures. Becky Barksdale, a guitarist who toured with Michael Jackson in the 1990s, will take the stage at 6 p.m. Friday. She'll be followed by Sharp Dressed Man, "the nation's best ZZ Top tribute band," from 8:30-11 p.m.

"Every year we get a request for a rock band, but we usually try to shy away from that since we do so much rock at Fun Fest," said Korpela. "We think Sharp Dressed Man will be a good compromise because they play a lot of the hits, but also their music from the 60s and 70s, which was pretty bluesy."

On Saturday, the park will open again at 10 a.m. Vendors will offer goods until 4 p.m.; however, music will continue until 11 p.m.

Saturday's music kicks off at 1 p.m. with The Pumps. At 4 p.m., Bingham & Thorne, an acoustic blues band, will take the stage for the brews tasting portion of the event.

"We wanted to dial it back for the tasting because people like to talk during the tasting portion," Korpela said. "We thought an acoustic band would be perfect."

Mojo Lemon is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. and Corey Stevens, a national blues recording artist, will finish the night from 8:30-11 p.m.

"We had Corey Stevens here last year and he brought in 1,000-1,200 people," Korpela said. "He was available Saturday so we thought we'd bring him back."

Along with music and crafts, more than 50 types of craft beer will be offered from 15 different breweries during the Blues and Brews portion of the event.

Korpela said that while rain has dampened the event most years, the Chamber is hoping that this is the year for beautiful weather.

"Even if it's not, we have big tents and the show will go on rain or shine," he said. "This is about $10,000 worth of music. Normally it would cost someone $5-$10 to see one of these bands and we're offering it for free -- no cover charge."

The entire weekend is free to attend. The Brews Fest portion requires tickets for sampling of the beer. Those tickets are $15 if purchased in advance; $20 at the gate. Advanced tickets can be purchased at the New Richmond Chamber Office, 245 S. Knowles Ave.; Lumberjack Liquors, 220 N. Knowles Ave.; or Family Fresh Market Liquor Store, 110 W. Fourth St.

Free taxi rides (in New Richmond) will be offered again this year for those who are unable to drive home from event. Vouchers for the taxi can be collected at the beer concession area.

For more information about the Park Art Fair and Willow River Blues and Brews Fest, visit