BIBLE HILL - For Ryan Matheson, the eighth annual Dutch Mason Blues Festival gives him a chance not only to return home, but see musicians perform he has never seen before.
"I'm really looking forward to the acts Saturday night," said Matheson, who's attending the festival for the third time with his wife, Jacqueline Petrie, their two daughters and his brother.
By 8 p.m., about 500 people had gathered at the festival when The Hupman Brothers were finishing and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real were set to take the stage.
"Besides James Cotton, I don't think I've seen any of the other performers before," Matheson said.
Matheson, a Miramichi, N.B. resident, said he's travelled throughout Canada and into the United States to see blues performances.
"This is right up there," he said of the event that began yesterday and runs until after supper on Sunday.
"In fact, this is almost better because it's a smaller town."
Growing up, Matheson and his brother, Gary, listened to '70s rock.
"We were into this kind of music before we knew it was the blues," he said, adding they listened to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
"Blues was always pretty respected but it was never really the music of choice for some people and I think this festival turns it around for some."
Sitting with two-year-old Emma and five-year-old Ellie, Petrie said she likes the idea of the festival because the couple can bring their children.
"It's a great venue and there are some great bands," she said. "We're down for the entire weekend."
While the festival goes all weekend, for Don Brooks and Thérèse Duguay, Friday was the only day they were taking in.
"A friend of mine called me and said he was playing here today," said Brooks, referring to J.P. Arseneault with The Horsepower Blues Band.
"Our main goal was to see Horsepower, but we are looking forward to others," said Duguay, who said this is the first festival for both her and Brooks.
"For us, this festival is a nice distance to travel and it's a great location," she said.
"There aren't enough of these around," added Brooks.
Travelling from Halifax, Jackie Johnson also knew a number of the musicians performing.
"I love good, live music. I actually prefer live music," she said while walking onto the grounds. "I know the music here will be fabulous."
The day before the festival started, organizers got word that one of their headliners for Sunday was unable to make it.
The Marshall Tucker Band pulled out due to the death of guitarist Stuart Swanlund. Funeral arrangements had been made for Saturday, which interfered with the band's travel plans.
Festival producer David DeWolfe has a number of musicians ready to fill the void and will surprise the crowd on Sunday.