CLEARWATER — With hands in their pockets and shoulders scrunched to protect their neck and ears from the wind, blues enthusiasts bobbed their heads and weaved their bodies to the beat Friday evening at Coachman Park.
It was the third annual Knology Clearwater Sea Blues Festival, and the lower-than-accustomed temperature wasn't about to keep them away.
"I'm from Canada, so I'm a little more used to the cold," said Wayne Sleeman, 61, who was wearing a ski jacket. "Last year, it rained. I'm a fan of the blues, I like the music, and they have some really good headliners." Lineup below
The high was 59 degrees Friday, and the low was to slip slightly below 40 degrees with the sun's disappearance.
Joanne Heffern wrapped herself in a baby blue blanket. She made the trip to Clearwater from Brandon. She brought two friends visiting from Ohio.
"It would be better if it was warmer, but I love the location," said Heffern, 40. "It's right on the water, and it's very nice. Besides, it's not really cold. Where I'm from, it's cold."
Heffern moved to Brandon from England 12 years ago.
As the chill caused noses to drip, the blues bands took to the stage. The Walter Smith Group started the evening. At one point, he led into a Muddy Waters number with a refrain of "I live the life I love, and I love the life I live."
Lil' Malcolm and the House Rockers followed, and the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes closed out the night.
"I think I will be able to warm them up," said Malcolm Walker, the accordion player with Lil Malcolm and the House Rockers, out of Lake Charles, La. "With our music, it's joyful music and it will keep the foot tapping."
The weather is set to take another turn today.
"It's supposed to be 70, 71 degrees," said Terry Schmidt, Clearwater's special events coordinator. "Most of the performers are from the northeast, and they are used to the cold."
The free three-day event that ends Sunday is expected to bring 40,000 folks to the park. Though the crowd was thin Friday, it is expected to swell today.
"We have some great musicians," Schmidt said. "And in these economic times, everybody loves a freebie."
The diehards were still there Friday night wearing gloves and hats and enjoying the music and the cold. They ate grouper, shrimp and crab cakes from St. Petersburg 's Hammerheads. They munched on ribs from Bradenton's J&J Barbecue that was lathered in a special homemade sauce.
Ron Tuttle, owner of Clearwater's Tuttle Concession, was hoping that folks would stop by his stand. Among the sweets he was pushing: ice cream.
"We have no choice but to sell it because it's what we sell," Tuttle said, with a laugh. "But the northern are in town and they eat ice cream. It's not cold to them."
For Gee Garafalo, 47, also of Brandon, the evening was simple: "It's about food, drinks, being merry and the music."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or email@example.com.