The St. Benedict Blues Festival is rocking once again, scheduled for October 28-30 in St. Augustine, Florida—the oldest city in the contiguous United States and the site of a historic Black Catholic landmark benefited by the event each year.
The festival, now in its 10th year, was founded in 2013 to fund the restoration of the rectory at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, a historic Black parish founded by the Josephites in 1911. The rectory dates to 1915, and with the church and former school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property in the Lincolnville Historic District.
“Join us for a weekend full of food, drinks, games, and the Rockin' Blues!” the festival organizers said in an announcement.
“Bring your favorite lawn chair and stay a while.”
As in previous years, the festival will feature two evenings of concerts on Friday and Saturday, followed by a morning and afternoon session on Sunday to cap off the event.
Returners from last year’s lineup include the Ken Jensen Blues Ensemble, which will repeat as the opening act of the event at 4pm ET. They will again be followed by the Warehouse Blues Band, and JW Gillmore and the Blues Authority will begin their set at 8pm.
The Jazzy Blue Band and Duffy Bishop Band will return for Saturday night’s shows, also beginning at 4pm, with Lightnin’ Rod Wilson and the Thunderbolts closing out the night.
The festival’s “Gospel Sunday” will begin with an outdoor Mass at 10am, featuring music from a gospel choir at a local Black Protestant congregation, historic St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The liturgy will be followed by brunch at 11am and performances beginning at 11:30am with Arlie Mae Victory. Americana Gospel Revival, another returnee from last year, will go on at noon, before the St. Paul’s choir returns for a set at 1pm. The last show of the weekend will be from the Trio du Hot Club Augustine.
The festival, which saw a record turnout in 2021, is one of several benefiting the Catholic Mission Rectory Fund, which has raised more than $150,000 since its founding by local residents Jess May and Mark Flippin. Alongside the annual blues event, the Lincolnville Porch Fest has also been a contributor.
The Lincolnville neighborhood, well known for its residents’ activism during the Civil Rights Movement, once played host to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who met with local activists at the St. Benedict the Moor rectory during his 1964 visit to St. Augustine. At the time, it was the only city in the state with a Catholic majority—a point not lost on King, who sought (unsuccessfully) to galvanize the local Church hierarchy into action.
His visit, and the local protests surrounding it, precipitated the infamous Monson Motor Lodge terrorist incidents that June from White Supremacists, occurring less than a mile from St. Benedict.
Next weekend’s event at the property is expected to draw hundreds and will feature food, games, and raffles. Tickets will be available onsite for $5. Food can also be pre-purchased in bulk via Venmo or check.
Those interested in volunteering to work at the festival can contact the organizers at email@example.com for more information.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).