Prepare to be serenaded with smooth jazz and sultry blues while floating down Big Walnut Creek this weekend.

Prepare to be serenaded with smooth jazz and sultry blues while floating down Big Walnut Creek this weekend.

At Gahanna's Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival you can take a $2 paddleboat ride and stay within earshot of the live blues and jazz performances. For those who prefer an up-close view, there'll be plenty of seats at four separate stages showcasing dozens of the area's best musicians.

The 11th-annual fest, held for the second year in the new Creekside Park & Plaza development, will also feature visiting regional artisans, fair food and a Ferris wheel.

The festival was started as a dedication for the Creekside Park area and a celebration of the revitalized Olde Gahanna. It's evolved from a half-day affair to a three-day, full-blown family fest.

Last year's move to the completed Creekside Park & Plaza, on the eastern bank of Big Walnut Creek, attracted lots more visitors.

"The park offered a lot in terms of what there is to do while listening to the music," festival spokeswoman Patty Geiger said. "It is also a beautiful forum for presenting the performances."

Organizers hope this year's new Acoustic Alley, a fourth live-music stage that'll be programmed by the Columbus Blues Alliance and the Jazz Arts Group, will draw even bigger crowds.

"[Acoustic Alley] gives local talent more opportunity to participate," Geiger said. "It creates an intimate environment for the audience."

This year's blues headliner is swamp-blues master Kenny Neal, a Louisiana native whose album Let Life Flow was named BluesWax Album of the Year in 2008.

Topping the jazz bill is the Typhanie Monique Quartet. Monique, who's been likened to a modern-day Sarah Vaughn, serves as vocalist, bandleader and songwriter for the Chicago group.

Beyond the music, there's plenty for families to do. The Musical Discovery Zone is a free, hands-on area where children can play various instruments and make one of their own.

For amusement park lovers, there's the Mini-Midway, complete with a fun house, giant slide, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, climbing wall and kiddie rides.

The Rising Stars Blues & Jazz Contest, Gahanna's take on American Idol, starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The contest gives a group of new musical talents a chance to compete to open for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. And the Jog for Jazz event, scheduled for Sunday, is a 5K walk/run event in Olde Gahanna.

Live music highlights

Featured blues performances

9:30 p.m. Saturday: Kenny Neal, renowned blues master

4:30 p.m. Sunday: Teeny Tucker and the Teeny Tucker Band, international blues-fest favorite

9:30 p.m. Friday: The Sonny Moorman Group, Cincinnati blues-rock band

Featured jazz performances

9 p.m. Friday: The Typhanie Monique Quartet, Chicago jazz group

9:30 p.m. Saturday: Urban Jazz Coalition, Columbus smooth-jazz powerhouse