NORWALK — Paul Nelson strummed a solid-wood Gibson Les Paul in Factory Underground Tuesday afternoon and recalled the first time he played with famous blues guitarist Johnny Winter.

“Once you have a touch with a player like that, it’s inspiring. It leaves a mark forever,” he said. Nelson, who has since played with Eric Clapton and Warren Haynes, won a Grammy for producing Johnny Winter’s album “Step Back” and has recently been touring his own album, “Badass Generation.”

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Those interested in participating in auditions, workshops or masterclasses can purchase tickets at www.connecticutguitarfestival.com.

But this Friday, he’s performing for free in Norwalk as the headliner of the first-ever Connecticut Guitar Festival.

Nelson said it was a chance to try to inspire young guitarists the same way Winter had inspired him. “There are people after us, like there were people before us.”

The festival, organized by the Suzuki Music Schools of Westport and Orange, features concerts, master classes, workshops and guitar vendors, spanning three days in three locations: Norwalk, Southport and Westport.

“It’s a guitar festival for musicians, not just the fans — like a mini trade show,” said Lory Ambrosini, an organizer of the festival.

Ambrosini said the festival was the brainchild of violinist Andrew Smith, the music director of the Westport and Orange Suzuki schools. The nonprofit was looking for a way to promote music throughout the region and decided to focus on guitar because of its ability to bring people together.

“Guitar is an instrument that bridges across all genres,” said Ambrosini. She pointed to heavy metal (“a lot of the solos and licks are derived from classical music, actually”) and Billboard-hit “Despacito” (“if you don’t have your guitar, the strumming, flamenco style, the song doesn’t move”) as examples.

People of all ages can enjoy free concerts throughout the event. On Friday, Suzuki guitarists, Drew Pinto and Tom Forst (soon to be inducted into the Connecticut Blues Hall of Fame) will perform with Paul Nelson starting at 8 p.m. at Factory Underground in Norwalk. On Saturday Jiji, winner of the 2016 Concert Artists Guild international Competition, will give a free show at the Pequot Library in Westport at 2 p.m., and on Sunday, a closing concert will be taking place at 3 p.m. at Suzuki Music Schools’ Westport campus.

In addition, there are workshops, masterclasses and adjudicated auditions (in which students will have the chance to perform before one another and receive written feedback from professionals in the field), which cost between $20 for one day and $40 for the weekend.

And for those looking for guitar supplies or to dust off an old axe, there will be a vendor exposition from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Suzuki Music Schools’ Westport campus. Among other booths will be an antique guitar roadshow, featuring restoration experts who can evaluate your guitar and let you know if it’s worth restoring.

“It is all ages, all abilities and really education and entertainment put into one,” Ambrosini said of the festival.

And according to Nelson, it’s an especially good time for such an event.

With more and more venues like the Wall Street Theater, the Ridgefield Playhouse and the FTC opening in the area, more well-known artists are coming to perform in Fairfield County.

“And that, in turn, spawns local bands to become opening acts to national acts,” Nelson said. “When you have a growing scene, it’s inspiring future artists. In a few years, music starts developing — it’ll be like Seattle, New Orleans, Florida.”

“There’s something going on,” he concluded. “So it’s nice to be a part of that — and to contribute, too.”

rschuetz@hearstmediact.com; @raschuetz