BRADENTON -- Last year, organizers of the first-ever Bradenton Blues Festival figured maybe 850 people would show up. They were mistaken. About 1,800 bought tickets in advance, and another 1,500 people turned out on the day of the festival.
"They just kept coming and coming," said Johnette Isham, the executive director of Realize Bradenton, the nonprofit organization behind the Bradenton Blues Festival. "The coolest and most exiting thing this year is that we're building on such a successful first festival."
Organizers have just announced the artists for this year's festival, slated for Dec. 7 at the Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton.
Probably the biggest name is Shemekia Copeland, whose powerhouse voice has made her one of the hottest young stars in the genre. She's the daughter of the late blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, and she's already almost as well-known and as respected as her father.
Other national names in the lineup include electric blues veterans Eddie Shaw & the Wolfgang, Kansas City blues siblings Trampled Under Foot, guitarist-singer-songwriter Anthony Gomes, up-and-comer John Nemeth, Mississippi soul-blues man Johnny Rawls; Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones with
Dennis Gruenling band (who will also be at Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest in April); and rising blues star Albert Castiglia.
There are a couple of new elements to this year's festival, Isham said. Mary GrandPre, the illustrator most famous for the Harry Potter books, will again be creating a limited-edition poster for the festival.
About 200 posters will be on sale for $50 each. For the first time, she's also donating her original artwork, that will be either raffled or auctioned, Isham said.
All the money from the posters and the original art will go to Realize Bradenton's Blues in the Schools program.
Baseball caps with the festival logo will also be offered this year for the first time.
The caps, and festival T-shirts, will be available very soon - late this week or early next week - for $20 at Keeton's office Supply, 817 Manatee Ave. W.
For the second annual festival, organizers are not only expecting 3,300 people, they're expecting them all to buy tickets in advance. Show up the day of the show without tickets in had and you may be out of luck.
Tickets go on sale today.
They're $30 in advance (and $40 at the gate if they're still available). Groups of 10 or more can pay $25 per person for groups of 10 or more. Tickets are $20 for students and $10 for children ages 5-12. Children age 4 and younger get in free.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.bradentonbluesfestival.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411. ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.