As blues man Randall Young played a soulful version of "Someday We'll Be Together," Capistrano Beach resident Lois Carr stood amid the crowd in Heritage Park and joyfully sang along.
"I'm so excited!" Carr said after the Motown classic ended. "I never thought I'd see the day when we had the blues around here."
Carr's thoughts were echoed by many of the thousands of people who descended upon the park overlooking Dana Point Harbor on Saturday for the first Orange County Blues Festival, which concludes tonight with a performance by blues legend Etta James.
More than 30 national and regional blues acts were scheduled to perform during the three-day event, including Canned Heat, Johnny (Clyde) Copeland, Guitar Shorty and Smokey Wilson.
The event drew everyone from curious locals unfamiliar with the blues to fervent fans who were jubilant to have a festival to call their own.
"I can't believe this is going on in south Orange County," said 22-year-old San Clemente resident Lori Torres. "Finally!"
Monterey Park resident Peter Monsivaiz, 35, drove out early Saturday morning to ensure a front row seat at the festival's smaller stage to see the new local band the Jive Kings perform.
"They're really cooking," Monsivaiz said during the band's set. "I like their guitar work. If they keep it up, they'll do well.
"Wherever there are blues going on, I go there," he said. "I don't mind the travel if the talent is top notch like it is here."
Los Angeles residents Chuck and Lisa Carroll sat on a grassy hill as Randall Young performed. The couple, celebrating their third wedding anniversary, were staying at Dana Point Resort and found out about the festival by chance.
"We just kinda stumbled upon it," said Lisa Carroll, 31. "We didn't know it was going on. But we're really enjoying the sunshine and being outside and the music is pretty good."
Ron Openshaw, 24, and Tom Ashley, 31, feasted on sushi and sipped cold beer in the afternoon sun as they listened to some of the acts.
"This is something Dana Point needs to continue," Openshaw said of the festival. "It's culture and I think that's what Orange County lacks. This is a positive atmosphere that is good for everyone."
"I didn't think it would be such a production," Ashley added. "It's festive and fun. It's like a holiday."
Longtime Dana Point residents Margie and Matt Ehrhart, who would only admit to being "sixtysomething," brought their 45-year-old daughter, Penny Collins, to the festival both Friday and Saturday.
"The food is wonderful!" Margie Ehrhart said between bites of an Italian sausage sandwich. "I enjoyed the music Friday night but so far today I've been paying more attention to the food, and, of course, it's been fun people-watching."