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Historic Year Expected for Blues Festival in Rockland 

Twenty-one artists are expected to play at this weekend’s North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, more than ever before. And that’s not the only reason organizers say this year’s event is historic.”It’s kind of amazing. It’s been fun to watch it grow. If anybody would have told me we’d be where we are today, doing what we’re doing…it started as a hobby,” says co-founder, Paul Benjamin.What would one day become the North Atlantic Blues Festival started right here in the Trade Winds Motor Inn parking lot, in 1990. Benjamin says this year, they’re expecting around 17-thousand people, with ticket sales up 22-percent from last year. He says there’s also another history-maker this year. A marker, designating Rockland, Maine, as an official stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail.”It’s an unbelievable honor. I’m very humbled by it. I’ve seen about 30 of them and knowing that there’s one right here in Rockland, Maine, it’s hard to put into words,” he says.There are more than 100 markers on the Trail, but only a select handful outside Mississippi. Alex Thomas with the Mississippi Blues Trail traveled here for the unveiling, and says it speaks to the caliber of the artists who’ve played here.”Blues comes from the soul. These guys came out from the most rural parts of Mississippi and went and made a name for themselves all over the globe,” he says. “It’s important that we preserve this history, and it’s important that we show the connection with places like Rockland, Maine.””It’s a culmination of bringing Mississippi artists into Rockland for the past 32 years,” Benjamin says. This year’s festival line-up includes Grammy winners and living legends. We’re told many area hotels, again this year, are nearly full.”When people leave from the previous year, all the rooms are already booked for the upcoming year,” says Aimee McKnight, Trade Winds owner. “It’s fabulous.”Shows start at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on the Rockland Harbor. Saturday night, Main Street will close to traffic for the Club Crawl, featuring artists at many local bars and restaurants.Tickets are still available. You can find out more at northatlanticbluesfestival.com.For more information on the Mississippi Blues Trail, visit msbluestrail.org/