The Waterfront Blues Festival is a music event that takes place in Portland, Oregon every year. It features world-class performances by some of the top blues musicians in the country and the world.
The event started as the Rose City Blues Festival in 1987 as a way to raise funds for various projects for the homeless by the Burnside Community Council. In the year 1988, the scenic Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland became the venue for the festival. Its name was officially changed to Waterfront Blues Festival in 1991.
In years past, artist Gary Houston has created a beautiful poster for the event. In 2007, an official U.S. Post Office postmark was issued to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Waterfront Blues Festival. That same year it was also awarded the Rose City Award by the Portland Oregon Visitors Association.
Musical performances are spread across four days. Over the years, highlights from the event have been broadcast on the community radio station, KBOO. Artists who have played at Waterfront Blues Festival in the past include John Lee Hooker, Papa John Creach, Charlie Musselwhite, Alice Stuart Band, the Campbell Brothers, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and The California Honeydrops.
Guests can opt for single-day tickets, Blues Fan Passes, or Blues Buddy passes. Only the Blues Fan and Blues Buddy passes have re-entry privileges. A buddy pass will also grant you early entry to the venue on all four days of the event. Prices range from $10 for a single-day ticket to $50 for the 4-day Blues Fan Pass. Additional ticket options are available with extra perks that cost more.
Children under the age of 12 can enjoy the festival for free as long as a ticket-holding adult accompanies them. Some of the proceeds go toward supporting organizations that fight hunger insecurity. More information on tickets and pricing is available on the official event website.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park is located on the beautiful west bank of the river. When coming into the area, you can look for the S.W. Naito Parkway. From here, you can get to the venue via the Esplanade, an open area with limited parking nearby. Alternatively, you can take the Hawthorne Bridge ramps.
Take note that this area along the Willamette River has multiple bridges, which can become congested. If you have a larger camping setup, you may prefer to park your RV at your campsite and take public transportation into the festival area. Keep an eye on the weather and road conditions through 511 resources for Portland and Multnomah County.
Street parking is available but can be difficult to find unless you get there early. Parking spots can also be found on the east bank of the river. From here, you can get to the venue by crossing the Hawthorne Bridge. Another option is to park at one of the lots or garages run by private operators. Driving your RV to directly the site is not recommended due to congestion in the area.
Guests are encouraged to take public transportation to the festival to avoid the hassles of navigating traffic and parking. You can ride a TriMet bus and get off close to the venue. Another option is to take a ride on the MAX light rail or hop on a Portland Street Car, which is a unique experience in itself.
Onsite camping options are not available to festival attendees. Fortunately, Portland has some great RV parks and campsites to choose from within a 20 to 25-minute drive of the festival site.
RV travelers can look parking lots that offer basic overnight parking within the city limits. Within Portland, several RV parks also welcome rigs of all sizes. But if you travel to the outskirts, you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the center and enjoy time in nature. Some of these campsites are located right on the Clackamas River, giving you the opportunity to enjoy water sports like kayaking and canoeing.
Golf carts, dune buggies, skateboards, bikes, scooters, motorcycles, and other motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the festival grounds. Most parts of the park are grassy, but there are wheelchair navigable pathways throughout the venue. An accessible seating area will be available for patrons with disabilities. Entering through the main entrance is the most direct way to get to this area.
The Waterfront Blues Festival has a casual, relaxed vibe. Most festival guests will be dressed in lightweight, warm weather clothing. A light jacket can come in handy if the temperature drops at night. You’re likely to be walking quite a bit within the staging areas, so be sure to wear a pair of comfortable shoes.
Large bags or backpacks will not be allowed into the park. Carry a small bag with a few items like sunscreen, a hat, a portable charger, an empty, refillable bottle, and a blanket or a small foldable chair. Typically, a canned food drive is organized as part of the event. So, be sure to bring a few cans of food to donate at the gate.
There will be bottled water for sale, and a free water refill station will be present at the venue. Take frequent breaks to get off your feet or cool off at one of the misting stations. The festival goes on for four days, so be sure to pace yourself, stay hydrated, and enjoy alcohol responsibly. Umbrellas, glass, tents, and selfie sticks are some of the items that are not allowed into the festival, so plan ahead for shade and hydration needs.
There’s nothing like a hot meal by the campfire to complete your camping experience. Most campsites in and around the city will allow the use of portable grills and contained fires, but some of the dry camping locations may not. You can look forward to preparing meals on the stove in your RV, though. Many have convenience stores in the vicinity where you can pick up supplies like wood (in case your site does allow fires) and ice.
There’s no shortage of great food for every budget in the Rose City. Chefs specializing in farm-to-table cuisine are churning out some fantastic dishes. There are also some great wine bars where you can grab a drink and some tasty appetizers. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more exotic, there is some excellent, Russian, Argentinian and Japanese food to be had in Portland.
Vendors will be selling delicious food and drinks at the venue. Every year, the organizers tie-up with the best restaurants and chefs in the city to bring tasty treats to the festival. Whether you’re in the mood to indulge or try something light and healthy, you’ll find it here. You’ll also be able to dig into plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
Portland Police Bureau officers and private guards help provide security for the event. Your bag will be checked by security personnel when you arrive at the gate. To ensure that the process is as fast and smooth as possible, make sure you’re not carrying any glass containers, tobacco, alcohol, or other items that are on the banned list.
The weather is typically warm and sunny with a slim chance of rain. While it can get pretty hot, the cool breeze blowing off the Willamette River provides a much-needed respite. The festival will go on, rain or shine. Before planning your trip, check the weather conditions and find out if any road alerts have been issued in Portland and the area you’re traveling from for simplicity.
Onsite first aid services will be available to anyone who needs medical assistance. Medical professionals who are trained to handle emergency situations will be available. You can approach them if you require help or information. Every attempt will be made to accommodate the needs of patrons with medical issues or disabilities.