BRADENTON -- It all begins today. Bradenton Blues Festival weekend. That means lots of awesome live music, a dazzling art exhibit and at least one killer party.
Oh yeah, many of these events are free.
For starters, famed performance photographer Joseph A. Rosen will be hosting a showing of his portraiture work at the Blues Revue magazine headquarters in the Village of the Arts at 1001 11th Ave. W.
The exhibit is today from 1-5 p.m. There will be images of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Dr. John and many more greats. Information: 866-702-7778.
As for live music, festival producer Realize Bradenton, the nonprofit organization that played a key role in creating the renovated Riverwalk, kicks it off proper by offering the community a free preview to the festival this evening.
The "Blues Appetizer Concert" is 6-9 p.m. with performances by Tampa blues man Selwyn Birchwood Band and Sarasota blues-rockers Kettle of Fish, which features singer/songwriter Dana Lawrence, backed by a cast of equally impressive players including guitarist Berry Duane Oakley. The group, one of the most popular in the Bradenton area, has opened for acts such as the Marshall Tucker Band, Eddie Money and Molly Hatchet.
Today, Kettle of Fish will be performing originals as well as deep tracks by Jimi Hendrix, Little Feat and some of those Allman Brothers Band songs originally featuring the brilliant bass guitar work of the senior Berry Oakley.
"We thrive on the big stage," Lawrence said. "Looking at the wide variety of the people out there is a thrill and you just thrive off it."
Food and beverages will be available for purchase at the Riverwalk "Blues Appetizer Concert." Information: 941-681-0708 or www.realizebradenton.com.
The Women's Resource Center of Manatee's annual fundraiser, "Bringing on the Blues," will also be held today starting at 7 p.m. It's in the historic "Brickyard" area behind O'Bricks on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton. The cost is $125 per person and includes live entertainment, food and premium open bar. Information: 941-747-6797 or go to www.wrcmanatee.org.
And then there's the main event, the inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival, on Saturday.
Grammy Award nominee Ruthie Foster headlines a first-rate lineup that includes 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.
In addition to the live music along the Manatee River, there will be an array of food, drink and art vendors.
Attendees are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or canned good to the Blues Appetizer and Bradenton Blues Festival to help donate food items to Meals on Wheels of Manatee County.
Then, following the Bradenton Blues Festival, there's the official after-party starting around 8 p.m. at Tarpon Pointe Grille & Tiki Bar, the popular eastern anchor of Riverwalk. The show features national-touring, Tampa-based blues artist Sean Chambers. Information: 941- 746-8700 or www.tarponpointegrill.com.
"Sean Chambers has invited all the festival performers to sit in with him," said Jack Sullivan, operations officer of Blues Revue magazine and the co-founder of the Bradenton Blues Festival. "I'm sure there's going to be a great jam."
And don't forget that Old Main Street will be closed Saturday between Manatee and Third Avenues for the Farmers Market (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and then from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. to accommodate the crowd from the Bradenton Blues Festival.
For interviews and more information, visit www.bradenton.com/weekend.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.
What: Bradenton Blues Festival
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 1
Where: Bradenton Riverwalk, 425 Third Ave. W., Bradenton
Cost: Tickets: $25 (until noon Nov. 30); $30 at the gate
Information: 941-681-0708 or www.bradentonbluesfestival.org