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story.lead_photo.caption Fred Sandbothe, left, dances with Ruth Withers during the Blue Sunday fundraiser for the Mo Blues Association at Memorial Park. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

Area residents enjoyed blues music and hot dogs at Memorial Park on Sunday at an event that raises money to educate area children about the blues.

The 21st annual Blue Sunday drew close to 200 people, and the sponsoring Mo Blues Association hoped to raise $500-$600. That's about one-fourth of the cost to bring a program about the blues to local public and Catholic schools, said Becky Fredrickson, the group's secretary.

In recent years, the association has hired accomplished blues performer Fruitland Jackson to lead the Blues in the Schools program. The Chicago native engages the children, giving them harmonicas to play along with him, while also teaching them about the music.

The three-hour Sunday event featured three area bands that volunteered to play: The Mo Blues Allstars, Cooper's Landing Jam Band and Buddha Blue. Attendees also were treated to free hot dogs and chips.

The Mo Blues Association made money through donations, T-shirt and soda sales and a 50/50 drawing.

Matt Griffin, the harmonica player for The Mo Blues Allstars, said he first became enamored with the genre of music in his early teens when his grandmother took him to a performing arts series event at Lincoln University.

A performer was playing classical chromatic harmonica. During the intermission, Griffin said, the performer played some blues. Griffin was hooked.

"I said, 'Wow, that's neat. I want to do that,'" he said. "So I started listening to blues tapes. I started playing harmonica, and it just kind of grew through my adult years, and I started playing in bands."

Griffin said his band volunteered their time to play at the event because of the importance of blues education.

"To me, there's a lot of issues with funding in schools right now in arts and music, so I think it's important to do what we can to help and support (blues)," he said. "We let the younger kids know that this is a kind of uniquely American art form, blues and jazz, to get them in and expose them to the history and get them involved."

He said the first children to come out of the program are adults now, and some of them are supporting and playing the blues themselves.

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