SPRING HILL —Annette Doying wasn't sure what to expect when she decided to plan a music festival that would mix the blues with an altruistic effort to feed the hungry in her community.
Doying, who had recently started Winding River Promotions, was pretty green when it came to the concert business. Even so, the 2013 Lake House Bluesfest went off without a hitch.
About 700 people ponied up for a ticket at the inaugural Blues for Food event, donating a truck full of food items and more than $1,000 to help stock two local food pantries.
Doying figures that's something to build on.
"Last year's event was wildly successful in that the music was fantastic, the day was great, the food was great and the vendors did well," she said. "But part of the event is focused on filling up the food pantry — we just need to get more food."
Blues lovers will have the opportunity to kick back and pitch in some more on Saturday at the 2014 Lake House Bluesfest, which will take place against the natural backdrop of Hunter's Lake.
Headlining will be Tampa's homegrown blues guitar aficionado, Damon Fowler. He's back in town after traveling the United States and five other countries with his own trio, as a member of the blues/Southern rock band Southern Hospitality, and as a guest artist on another friend's record.
"It's been fun," Fowler said of his worldly travels.
But he's happy to be home to help out.
"Blues for Food — well I think it's a great deal," he said. "We're really excited to be a part if it."
Fowler, who in 2005 suffered severe injuries in a car wreck on Interstate 75, knows well what it's like to be on the receiving end. He was sidelined for a year, and as a musician had no insurance. But the community came out in force, holding various fundraisers to help care for one of their own.
"It really kind of feels like it's my duty after years of help to be there," he said. "I definitely understand being in a time of need, and we're happy to be able to help."
Fowler said those attending Saturday's event will "hear all of it." Maybe something like Pocket Full of Blues off his 1999 debut Riverview Drive; Third Rate Romance off the national rollout of Sugarshack in 2009, or Old fools, Bar Stools and Me from his latest CD, Sounds of Home.
After playing last year's festival, Cruzin' for a Bluzin' (with special guest Eddie Wright) and Franc Robert & the Box Car Tourists will be back at this year's event. Rounding out the lineup will be Lazy Boy and the Rockers, and T.C. Carr with guest Josh Nelms.
Doying said she is upping the ante in making a larger investment in talent this year, with the hope of bringing in more donations, which, this year, will benefit the Holy Cross Church Lutheran Church food pantry on Spring Hill Drive.
She's also catering to the incomes of a varied crowd by featuring a wider range of vendors and offering free admission to those 18 and under.
"We're humble little Hernando, Pasco and Citrus county, so we're being careful in making sure everybody can afford to eat while they are there or pick up a trinket or a piece or artwork if they want," she said.
The goal, Doying said, is to make a bigger impact, whether it be helping the less fortunate or introducing the younger set to the blues and the importance of community service.
The reach of the one-day event might be extended with a push from Blues for Food Inc., a nonprofit organization that Doying recently started with a group of trusted friends.
"We think there is potential in the state to grow Blues for Food a lot bigger," said Doying, pointing to the success of similar events in Houston and Portland, Ore.
"I did some research, and what I discovered is these blues events can be very effective," she said.
Since 1988, Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival has raised more than $10 million in donations and 815 tons of food to benefit the Oregon Food Bank. Houston's Blues for Food one-day concert, now in its 25th year, has raised more than 200,000 pounds of nonperishable food and more than $100,000 to help the homeless.
"Who knows, by year 27 we might be Oregon," Doying said. "It all starts somewhere, and we think we're starting it in Spring Hill, Florida."
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6251. Follow @mimichele525.