With just three weeks left before the 30th annual Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival, organizer Lew Jetton is getting antsy.
"I'm more nervous than excited at this point," the festival planner and blues musician said. "We want a good, successful show, but we've got a lot of things to do before now and then to make sure it goes right."
The annual musical gathering at Kenlake State Park in Aurora, set for Aug. 22-24, is known for bringing some of the best blues musicians in the world to the small, lakefront community. Jetton estimates that as many as 5,000 attendees pass through the festival by land and by lake.
Tickets will be $35 for a short time and will cost $45 at the gate later this month.
Jetton began working with the festival some years ago at the request of Kenlake State Park and has put a lot of himself into the planning of the event.
"It's kind of nerve-racking for me," he said. "I fund it entirely out of my retirement savings. We're in pretty good shape this year so far, but obviously I don't want to be eating ramen noodles when I'm 70.
"I just want a show where everyone's entertained, everything goes smooth and everybody stays safe."
The lineup this year is filled to the brim with talent. Friday evening will feature three of Harper Guitars' "top guns" in John Sutton, Alonzo Pennington & the Xtraordinary Gentlemen and Jonathon Long.
The second day of the festival will incorporate bands both old and new to the Hot August Blues tradition, with the return of Nightfish, Big Al & the Heavyweights, the Gough-Martin Blues Band, the Reba Russell Band and the Beat Daddys.
"For the most part we like to keep our lineup as fresh as possible and change the acts up every year," Jetton added.
Joanna Connor, Jetton hopes, also will bring a stellar performance to the lakefront stage.
"Holy cow. She's one of the finest slide guitar players in the world," he said. "She plays these marathon shows in Chicago and she is really, really hot right now. She's a world-class guitar player. We're really excited about having her."
A popular feature of last year's festival was Jetton bringing in a soulful act to spike a set of classic R&B. Last year, it was Soul Dawg, but this year it'll be The Memphis All-Stars.
"They'll really bring a hot dose of Memphis rhythm and blues," Jetton said. "In fact, the lead guitarist, Greg Reding, used to be the staff guitar player for Stax Records and he's worked with a lot of heavyweights, like Al Green."
The wetness of this year's summer season doesn't worry Jetton. In the event of rain, festivities at Kenlake will move to the indoor tennis center, which, Jetton said, is more than big enough to handle the crowd.
"It has been a really wet year, but we've been really blessed over the years with this festival," the retired TV weatherman said. "That's really something that I can't control, we just keep our fingers crossed and hope it doesn't rain. If it does rain, though, we're covered."
To keep up with the Kenlake Hot August Blues Festival or purchase tickets, visit www.kenlakeblues.com.