Cultural Collision

by Katie Dutli & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & nyone who's lived in the Inland Northwest for a winter or two knows the meaning of the winter blues. Barely eight hours of daylight, and most of those hours blanketed with a thick cover of fog; weeks passing by without a glimpse of the sun; cold spells broken only by slightly-less-cold spells -- yeah, we know the winter blues here.

In Coeur d'Alene, though, a cure is on the horizon: the Coeur d'Alene Winter Blues Festival, filling the convenient three-day holiday midwinter weekend. The blues fest will also correspond with the ninth annual mARTi Gras Benefit and Cajun Cook-off, to help the community's Art on the Edge program. It's the perfect blending of South and West, featuring numerous cultural opportunities, famous Northwest blues musicians, and the opportunity to experience the blues scene normally reserved for the warmer summer months.

The location is enough to send the blues -- the emotional variety -- packing. Coeur d'Alene's allure as a magical little town on a lake is the perfect backdrop for the event. (The Coeur d'Alene Resort is offering a Winter Blues Festival weekend package, if you want to make a weekend of it.)

Bill Reagan, general manager of the Coeur d'Alene Resort, believes that this weekend is more than just a celebration of delectable Cajun food and Louisiana-worthy blues music. "It sets the tone for the whole community," he says. "I'm hoping it does for the art and culture scene what Ironman did for outdoor recreational opportunities -- by giving kids, families and individuals a unique cultural experience and the opportunity to listen to world-famous live music that will make them want to return year after year."

Blues music has seen a fair share of success in the Northwest thanks in part to the large number of quality, award-winning local musicians. The Northwest is home to many nationally acclaimed blues festivals in the summer months, but winter is often deadly quiet. The initial idea behind this festival was to bring the music a little closer to home, founded on the idea that you can never have too much of a good thing.

Along with the many activities available to adults, kids will find fun events geared toward them. Art on the Edge presents the Kids' Carnival at the Shops, a free all-day event giving kids the opportunity to make masks, decorate wagons, watch performances and learn about the history of Mardi Gras.

Evening activities include the Cajun Cook-off -- a Top Chef-style competition featuring New Orleans cuisine that coordinates with the theme for the weekend. For the sea birds, there's the cocktail blues cruise around Lake Coeur d'Alene with music from Oregon favorite Paul deLay. And, of course, there are plenty of concerts and performances all over town. On Sunday morning, the Resort's acclaimed Sunday brunch gets a bluesy twist, becoming the Gospel Brunch at Dockside, adjacent to the lobby.

While the weekend is an opportunity to experience a new blossoming culture in Coeur d'Alene, the focus is on the music and the 16 performers who will take the stages during the festival. To the top right are some of the top acts:

The Fat Tones: This threesome has collected a pile of awards, including "Best Blues Band" by Inland Empire Blues Society for 2005.

Nicole Fournier and her 3-lb. Universe: The guitarist and singer-songwriter was named "Blueswoman of the Year" in the Northwest in 1999.

Randy Oxford: The popular blues-based trombonist branches out to R & amp;B and funk.

Too Slim and the Tail Draggers: The local favorites mix their modern, dirty-rock sound with original blues.

Lloyd Jones Struggle: This original artist on the modern-day scene mixes blues, funk and R & amp;B for a Memphis groove.

CdA Winter Blues Festival

Friday, Feb. 16

6 pm Paul deLay's Blues Cocktail Cruise (on the lake)

8 pm Black & amp; Warhall (Whispers)

8 pm Buddy Vaughn (Beverly's)

9 pm Cool Stack (Shore Lounge)

Saturday, Feb. 17

10 am-3 pm Kid's Carnival

(Resort Plaza Shops)

6 pm 9th Annual mARTi Gras Benefit and Cajun Cook-Off (Resort Plaza Shops, Brix, Cricket's, The Ironhorse and Barrel Room No. 6)

7 pm The Fat Tones

(Conference Center)

8 pm Black & amp; Warhall (Whispers)

8 pm Buddy Vaughn (Beverly's)

8:15 pm Nicole Fournier & amp; Her 3-lb. Universe (Conference Center)

9 pm Cool Stack (Shore Lounge)

9:30 pm Randy Oxford

(Conference Center)

10:45 pm Too Slim and the Taildraggers (Conference Center)

Midnight Lloyd Jones Struggle (Conference Center)

Sunday, Feb. 18

9 am Gospel Brunch, to 1 pm (Dockside)

8 pm Black & amp; Warhall (Whispers)

8 pm Buddy Vaughn (Beverly's)

9 pm Cool Stack (Shore Lounge)

Weekend Resort Pass (Fri-Sun): $35; Lounge Pass: $10 per night. mARTi Gras and Cajun Cook-off, Sat. 6pm -Midnight: $45; $50, at the door. Full-Access Weekend Pass (Resort and mARTi Gras): $70. The Blues Cocktail Cruise: $20. Gospel Brunch: $24. Call (208) 765-2300 ext. 21.