The Pittsburgh Blues Festival was founded in 1994 as a fund raiser for the Pittsburgh Community Foodbank. Musician and music critic Phil Harris asked Esser to join the festival committee in 1994. Ron has played a key role since 1994 booking the national and local artists. Over its 18 year history the weekend long festival has featured blues superstars Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Five Blind Boys from Alabama, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Koko Taylor, Luther Allison, Mavis Staples, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Charlie Musselwhite, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Charlie Musselwhite , Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Los Lobos, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Southside Johnny, Canned Heat, the Bobby “Blue” Bland, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Dickey Betts & Great Southern, the Elvin Bishop Band, Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, Leon Russell, and Albert Cummings.
During its early years the annual festival was held at the Riverplex at Sandcastle and the I.C. Light Amphitheater in Station Square on Pittsburgh’s South Side. It moved the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in 2001. Seeking a bigger venue that would attract families the festival moved to Hartwood Acres in 2005. The Pittsburgh Blues Festival has raised over $1.2 million to feed those in need.