COLUMBIA, MO --  As the sun begins its descent over Stephens Lake Park in  Columbia on Friday, Sept. 30, thousands of people will make their way across the park grounds to claim their spot in front of the two main stages and settle in for the first celebratory songs of the weekend. At 5:00 p.m., the three-day party officially gets underway, marking  the tenth anniversary of the annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, September 30 through October 2.

Roots N Blues features over 30 different musicians and bands from around the country performing a variety of music that all falls under the blanket category of "roots" music -- country, bluegrass, gospel, folk, soul and blues.  On the program for 2016 are the always popular folk-rock veterans, The Avett Brothers featuring Scott and Seth Avett; Jason Isbell, who continues to show why he is considered to be one of the most prolific and important singer-songwriters of his generation; Grace Potter, who has played every major music festival from Coachella and Lollapalooza to Bonnaroo and is said to be one of the best live performers working today; Missouri native Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, whose critically acclaimed self-titled debut album was released last year and appeared on several year-end best-of lists; St. Paul and the Broken Bones, the electrifying 6-piece soul band from Birmingham, AL; The Mavericks, who bring a combination of neotraditional country music, Latin, and rockabilly influences to the stage and many more genre-bending performers.

In a way, one could say that the tenth anniversary lineup is a bit of a "best of" Roots N Blues, with several of the 2016 headliners having previously played at RNBNBBQ in years past, but festival organizers aren't resting on their laurels. 

The Avett Brothers bring their renowned high-energy live performances back to the Roots N Blues stage on Sunday, Oct. 2.
"We wanted to do something special for our anniversary, so we began polling attendees as to who their favorite performers were and who would they like to see return. We feel that we've done a great job finding a balance of bringing back some favorites and mixing in some new, up-and-coming acts," says  Festival Director Julie King Dworski. "I'm really excited about this year's artists. We have an awesome lineup on every single day and there is not one band that I'm not excited to see."

It is this high caliber of performers and programing that has helped Roots N Blues cement itself as one of the fastest growing music festivals in the U.S. (2015 saw over 25,000 visitors from 43 different states and five countries) and garner the recognition as one of "the most prominent festivals in the country" from Blues Scene Magazine.  Past Roots N Blues stages have been graced by some of the biggest names in roots music: Al Green, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, John Mayall, Booker T, Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Jay Farrar, Rosanne Cash, John Prine, Jimmy Cliff, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Johnny Winter, Mavis Staples, Dwight Yoakam, Dr. John, Marty Stuart, and many others. That trend continues in 2016.  For a complete list of this year's performers and stage schedule, please visit

Roots N Blues is more than a music festival: 
it's an interactive cultural experience.
Although the music is the main draw, organizers have done well to create an event that appeals to people of all ages and interests.  "One of our major focuses is to not just host a festival, but to create an entire experience, and that's what it is: It's a cultural experience," Dworksi says. "We take this beautiful city park and transform it into an amazing interactive space and bring people together through music and food.  We're really proud of how it's evolved and taken off."

The entire festival footprint will be decorated with different art installations created by many local artists.
Throughout the festival footprint, which accounts for roughly 50 acres of Stephens Lake Park, attendees will be able to appreciate, enjoy and even interact with many different art installations interspersed around the grounds. Festival organizers partnered with Lisa Bartlett, owner of Columbia's ARTlandish Gallery, who in turn works with many volunteers to dream up, plan and create these unique pieces of art that will be on display the entire weekend. In years past, there have been larger-than-life puppets of dragonflies, butterflies and octopi; intricate sculptures; music-themed creations  and  the popular "GuitarHenge," consisting of 10 eight-foot tall guitars arranged in a circle reminiscent of Stonehenge. Each of these guitars is crafted and painted by different artists and is sponsored by various Columbia businesses, with proceeds going to Roots N Blues' music education program, Blues in the Schools.

A diverse fleet of 25 food trucks and vendor tents will be set up
onsite to quell attendees' hunger.
When it comes to refreshments, there will be no shortage of options. Several beer gardens and lounges will be set up throughout the park, offering local craft brews from three of Columbia's microbreweries (Broadway Brewery, Burr Oak and Logboat) as well as familiar domestics.  A diverse fleet of 25 Mid-Missouri-based food trucks and vendor tents keep appetites at bay with a wide array of menu items ranging from specialty cuisines and classic barbecue to traditional carnival fare. 

There also will be  vendors selling festival souvenirs, merchandise from the performers, and hand-crafted works of art. And, to round out the festival experience, families can also enjoy popular carnival-like activities including a large ferris wheel.

The Roots N Blues half-marathon and 10k takes place on Saturday, Oct. 1 and winds throughout the most picturesque parts of Columbia.
In addition, Roots N Blues hosts a half-marathon and a 10k on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 1. The races begin at 7 and 7:30 a.m., respectively, and wind through Columbia's urban trails, its historic downtown, the beautiful University of Missouri campus and concludes at Stephens Lake Park. All racers will enjoy live music along the route and will receive a commemorative medal, a collector's t-shirt, FREE BBQ and beer and a discount voucher to use when purchasing festival tickets.  For more details about the race, or to sign up, visit the "Race" page on the festival's website.

Several transportation options will be available throughout the weekend.  The festival provides free shuttle service to and from downtown parking lots and garages to the festival entrance for all attendees. COMO Connect (Columbia's city buses) also runs for free all over Columbia during the festival weekend.  There will be free bicycle parking and ADA accessible parking at the entrance as well. 

According to Chuck Graham, the festival's accessibility coordinator, organizers have gone out of their way to make Roots N Blues one of the easiest festivals to maneuver and attend. Roots N Blues will have a dedicated ADA parking lot reserved for attendees with state-issued disabled plates or hanging tags, where festival staff will meet the attendees with a shuttle as soon as they pull in. "The carts allow us to take concertgoers safely to the stages and vending areas where there are some fairly level areas to enjoy our fabulous artists and the grass will be cut prior to the event to keep the terrain manageable." Graham says. " Within the festival grounds, an accessible golf cart shuttle will be provided to all fans for free. These carts will run to marked locations throughout the festival grounds, or attendees can call the number listed at the marked stops for a ride. We'll also have ADA accessible porta potties available at the event in easy-to-access locations."  Graham adds that any attendees with accessibility concerns can contact him to discuss their needs and approximate arrival time in order that he and his volunteers may better serve their patrons.

The Blues in the Schools program is a popular community outreach program that is fun for the children, parents and festival goers alike.
The Roots N Blues Foundation is another aspect of this festival that makes it so unique and special for the entire community.  As part of a national initiative,
Blues in the Schools, is an ever-expanding element of RNBNBBQ Festival.  This music education program provided to Columbia's elementary schools encourages an appreciation for blues music and its history through mentorship with an artist in residence. Participating students also get a chance to show off what they've learned when they perform a number of songs  live on stage for fest-goers. To learn more about the foundation, visit

"It's been amazing to see the way the community comes together to support the Blues in the Schools program. It's just been fantastic how the organizers have combined world-class artists and an educational program that gives so much back to the community all in one event," says Megan McConachie, communications manager for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We absolutely love Roots N Blues.  It's really the perfect representation of what Columbia is all about: promoting creativity through the arts - be it music, culinary or the fine arts - and fostering a healthy community that is involved and invested in the city and its cultural offerings," McConachie concluded.

Passes for the 2016 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival are on sale now. For more information on Roots N Blues, including what types of passes are available and how to purchase them, as well as complete roster of performers, stage schedule, details on the half-marathon, Blues in the Schools program and more, visit .

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Columbia features a mix of small town charm and friendliness with the amenities and cultural offerings of a big city. There is always something exciting to see and do in Columbia, so for more information on these and other ways to have fun in Columbia, please contact Megan McConachie at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-652-0987 or at

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