Bradenton Blues Festival lands national acts

wtatangelo@bradenton.comFebruary 22, 2012 

BRADENTON -- A major music bash is coming to Manatee County.

The Bradenton Blues Festival will feature eight international-touring acts when it debuts Dec. 1.

The performers will be revealed when tickets go on sale in mid-March, Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, told the Herald on Tuesday.

The family-friendly Saturday event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., kicks off downtown Bradenton’s $6.2 million Riverwalk along the Manatee.

Dave Gustafson, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the festival site, overlooking the county’s signature body of water, can accommodate as many as 2,500 people.

“The Bradenton Blues Festival gives people more reason to come and discover this unique downtown that we have,” Gustafson said. “This is one more event to put Bradenton on the map.”

The estimated ticket prices for the festival are $25 for general admission and $125

for limited VIP seating.

Locally-produced food and art, as well as educational initiatives, will also be components of the event.

On Nov. 30, the festival will feature an outreach program to Manatee County high school students called “Blues in the Schools,” during which festival musicians will share their talents and professional advice with area students.

As first reported by the Herald in November, Harry Potter book series illustrator Mary GrandPré will bring her iconic “soft geometry” style to the limited-edition festival poster.

Funding for the event will come from a number of sources including commercial and individual patrons and sponsors, food and arts vendors, as well as T-shirt and poster sales.

The idea for the Bradenton Blues Festival came months ago following several meetings between Realize Bradenton and Jack Sullivan, operations officer of the internationally acclaimed Blues Revue magazine, headquartered in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts.

Blues Revue promotes festivals nationwide, including the annual Tampa Bay Blues Festival at Vinoy Waterfront Park in St. Petersburg, taking place this year April 13-15.

Sullivan introduced Isham to Paul Benjamin, who founded and produces the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine.

Benjamin played a similar role in securing top talent from across the country for the Bradenton Blues Festival.

A couple of the national acts have local ties.

“The amazing partnership this festival has attracted including Blues Revue, the Downtown Development Authority and Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is really amplifying this region for high quality blues talent,” Isham said.

“Bradenton is not only The Friendly City but the Friendly Blues City, attracting great blues musicians to relocate here from places like Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit.”

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit

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