BRADENTON -- A major blues music festival featuring national headliners and top local talent is in the works to coincide with the grand opening of the city’s $6.2 million Riverwalk in the fall of 2012.
Community leaders will be meeting at various downtown locations next week to discuss everything from the name of the festival to pricing and logistics.
The genesis of the festival came from a meeting last month between Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, and Jack Sullivan, operations officer of the internationally circulated Blues Revue magazine that recently moved its headquarters from California to the Village of the Arts.
“We also want it to be a culinary event featuring local restaurants with local blues acts playing downtown venues in and around the day of the festival, with the idea of getting the headliners to jam with local talent,” Isham told the Herald. “In the Realize Bradenton cultural master plan, it indicates a major festival on the Riverwalk. So I was very excited when we met with Jack and talked about how we could partner.
“With such a well-known blues organization making its home in the Village of the Arts, it was really a no-brainer.”
Blues Revue sponsors numerous festivals nationwide, including the annual Tampa Bay Blues Festival held in April at the Vinoy Waterfront Park in St. Petersburg.
“Blues Revue’s mission statement is to serve the music, the musicians and the community,” Sullivan said. “Therefore we are happy to be involved with our new hometown of Bradenton in creating a spectacular event to coincide with the grand opening of Riverwalk.”
The Blues Revue officer has arranged for Paul Benjamin, who has coordinated the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine, for the past two decades to be a consultant for the similar Bradenton event. Multiple Grammy Award-winner Robert Cray headlined this year’s North Atlantic Blues Festival in July. Benjamin will also be present for the meetings next week that involve everyone from the mayor to a representative from Courtyard Marriott.
“I’m really excited,” Mayor Wayne Poston said. “When I came into office in 2000 and made a list of things to accomplish, Riverwalk was one. It’s taken 12 years, but we got there and we want to make a big celebration now that we’re using the river in ways we never thought of before.
“Let’s make a big splash,” he said. “Now that we have those great guys from Blues Revue in the Village of the Arts, it’s a hometown connection and just natural they’d be part of our Riverwalk celebration.”
Wade Tatangelo, Herald features writer/columnist, also occasionally writes for Blues Revue’s magazine BluesWax.