BRADENTON -- The eyes of the world were on Bradenton on Saturday.
A live stream of the festival drew 3,250 views from all 50 states and from 37 foreign countries. People in Romania, Australia and China were watching Marcia Ball, Billy Branch, Samantha Fish and the other nationally-known blues acts that roused a capacity crowd at Bradenton's Riverwalk.
The online audience was about the same size as the live crowd. According to figures released Monday by Realize Bradenton, which organizes the festival, "more than 3,200" people came to the Riverwalk for the third annual festival. That's about 100 more than last year's record crowd.
The vast majority of the crowd came from outside Manatee County. People came from 30 states, including Alaska, and from three foreign countries. Of the Floridians in the crowd, 87 percent came from outside Manatee.
Johnette Isham, the executive director of Realize Bradenton, attributes the success of the blues festival to the talent of the artists involved, plus a community effort that involved many organizations and businesses, plus 150 volunteers.
"The Bradenton Blues Festival engages some of the nation's most popular, award-winning blues artists with a massive community effort," she said.
Among the groups that worked with Realize Bradenton to make the festival a success are the downtown Development Authority, Blues Music Magazine, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., METV and 62 business sponsors.
Beautiful Florida December weather no doubt also contributed to the festival's success this year. Visitors and artists from northern states commented on the balmy temperatures and sunny skies.
The third annual Bradenton Blues Festival ran from late morning until early evening Saturday, and featured non-stop live music from nationally known acts, including Ball, Branch, Fish, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials, EG Kight, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones with Dennis Gruenling and Dave Muskett. The festival also featured gourmet food from Bradenton-area restaurants.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.