BRADENTON -- An eclectic roster of national headliners and top local talent are set to perform at Manatee Countys most highly anticipated music event.
The inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival will feature eight acts including Grammy Award nominee Ruthie Foster, Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Neal and super group Southern Hospitality, which is led by Bradenton Beach resident Damon Fowler.
Dave Biscuit Miller, Johnny Sansone, Homemade Jamz, the Steve Arvey Horn Band with Henry Lawrence -- also a pair of local favorites -- and Ben Prestage round out the lineup.
The Dec. 1 event will take place along the countys namesake waterway at the redesigned Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton.
In addition to the music, there will be an array of food, drink and art vendors.
The festival is a Realize Bradenton production presented by M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group.
A total of 50 sponsors ranging from local restaurants and construction companies, to the Bradenton Herald and the internationally-circulated magazine Blues Revue are already on board for what organizers hope to be the first of many annual Bradenton Blues Festivals.
Bringing together a high-quality event like this is the crest of a wave resulting from years of fabulous work, said Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton. And its indicative of how wonderful Riverwalk is going to be.
She expects to attract blues enthusiasts from around the region and country.
The headliners, especially Foster, bring instant credibility to the festival. Her album Let it Burn, which came out earlier this year, has appeared on four Billboard charts including the blues survey, where it currently hovers around the top 10 after peaking at No. 2.
The Texas singing and songwriting guitarists 2009 CD, The Truth According to Ruthie Foster, received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Foster has been lauded for deftly performing and penning gospel, blues, jazz, folk and soul numbers.
Shes such a dynamite performer, said Paul Benjamin, the festivals artistic director. She just ignites the audience.
Benjamin founded and continues to produce the annual North Atlantic Blues Festival, a waterfront event in Rockland, Maine, that has taken place annually since 1994.
Im looking forward to getting back down to Bradenton and making this festival a success for many years to come, he said.
General admission will be $30 at the event but people who purchase advance tickets at www.bradentonbluesfestival.com before June 1 will get them for $25 and as an added bonus, receive three issues of the Blues Revue magazine and a blues music CD (a $17.50 value), complements of Blues Revue, which has its main office in the Village of the Arts
We love that a festival of this caliber is in the city where our headquarters are, said Jack Sullivan, operations officer at Blues Revue. Were all very excited.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.