Realize Bradenton got a pleasant surprise while preparing for one of its biggest destination events, the Bradenton Blues Festival, which takes place Dec. 2-4.
The nonprofit, dedicated to revitalizing and promoting the success of downtown Bradenton, received a call from The Blues Foundation announcing that it will host one of its 2016 board of directors quarterly meetings in Bradenton. The Blues Foundation is based in Memphis, Tenn., and is responsible for the Blues Hall of Fame in that city.
Barbara Newman, President and CEO of The Blues Foundation, said the board of directors holds two of its quarterly meetings at its home base in Memphis. The other two meetings are held at other destinations where board members can “connect with the blues in that area.”
“Bradenton felt like a really good spot,” Newman said. “There’s a really good scene in the Bradenton-Sarasota area and expanding outside of that. There’s lots and lots of blues societies.”
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The number of nearby blues societies, the liveliness of the destination’s blues music scene and other appealing factors contribute to the foundation’s choice for meeting destinations.
The Blues Foundation’s mission: to preserve the blues heritage, celebrate blues recording and performance, expand worldwide awareness of the blues and ensure the future of this uniquely American art form
“We want to make sure if we ask our board to spend their own dollar — it’s all volunteer on their part — if we’re going to ask them to travel and to pay for the airfare and the hotel, we want to make sure we’re bringing them to a vibrant destination with activities beyond the meeting,” Newman said.
On Friday night, The Blues Foundation board members will convene with blues-music lovers from several blues society at Ace’s Lounge, 4343 Palma Sola Blvd.
The 23 board members will stay at the downtown Courtyard Bradenton this weekend for the retreat on Friday and Saturday.
“To have the Blues Foundation host an annual board retreat in downtown Bradenton acknowledges that Bradenton has the blues, and is becoming a desired destination for businesses,” Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, said in a release.
Though an economic impact study on the Bradenton Blues Festival hasn’t been done, Isham touts that last year’s event brought people from eight countries, 25 states and 225 zip codes in Florida. Realize Bradenton’s electronic ticketing system records the home address of each attendee who purchases a ticket.
Isham thinks The Blues Foundation’s choice of Bradenton for a retreat site expands the event’s reach even more.
“All these people (from the retreat) will go back and talk about the Riverwalk, talk about Realize Bradenton, the Courtyard, and they will be at Ace’s meeting blues lovers from around the community,” she said.
Last year’s Bradenton Blues Festival was awarded the No. 1 Blues Festival in the U.S. by Blues411, an all-things-blues website and blog.
The Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau helps promote the event because it brings a pool of potential new visitors.
“It’s such a great event in December; it’s outside so vacationers love it because there’s not many places in the U.S. that you can be in your shorts and shirt at a music festival along the river outside in December,” said Kelly Clark, director of communications for the bureau. “So it’s a big draw for us.”
The 2016 Bradenton Blues Festival lineup includes the The Golden State/Lone Star Revue, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and Victor Wainwright & the WildRoots, among others.
Proceeds from the Bradenton Blues Festival support Realize Bradenton’s youth art and music programs that are free to the community. Realize Bradenton organizes Blues in the Schools, an educational outreach program at Manatee County schools.
Tickets for the Bradenton Blues Festival and more information about the weekend’s events can be found at bradentonbluesfestival.org.