Folks geared up for a night of free music on the square in Willimantic Friday night.
The Once in a Blue Moon Jazz Festival draws a crowd and is free thanks to part of the Thread City’s rich music history.
The festival was set to cost music lovers $20 each, but the Windham Arts Council said it became free just last week, thanks to local musician David Foster.
He’s the former owner of the Shaboo Inn, and he opened the doors to the classic concert venue in 1971 and started bringing young, talented artists through Willimantic.
"We would do 3,000 to 5,000 people a week, right here in Willimantic,” Foster said. "It was good for restaurants, gas stations, the hotel. Everything flourished because we were bringing so much business to town."
Windham Arts said Foster's support has made a huge difference.
"We were just elated!" said Michelle Bourgeois, Windham Arts. "This happened just over a week ago and we were so appreciative."
Along the way Foster sang with the greats, like Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, BB King, and he moved to Los Angeles and New York City but always wanted to come back home.
"We feel our musical history in this town is really important, so we want to do everything we can to preserve it and bring a little attention to it,” Foster said.
He’s hoping a free concert will bring families out to enjoy the blues, and support Windham Arts.
"He already had donated the backline for the bands and got us connected with the sound and lights and made it so we saved a lot of money with the fundraising part,” said Michelle Bourgeois of Windham Arts. “But when he stepped up and said ‘let’s open it up to everybody’ it just sent it over the top."
"Just to give people a beautiful evening where they don't have to dig in their pocket," Foster said.
The concert starts at 6 p.m. in Jellison Square. The big headliner is the Johnny Winter Legacy Band with James Montgomery, but every act has some connection to Willimantic.
Admission is free and Windham Arts will be selling food, beer and soda. Proceeds from the refreshments will go to the town.
"We try to get the dollars into the hands of the local schools and students because that's always the first things that's cut in budgets," Bourgeois said.
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