The brain trust behind the Bradenton Blues Festival figured success to be around 800 to 1,200 ticket sales for Saturday's inaugural event at the city's new showpiece park, Riverwalk. But the event proved wildly successful with a crowd of 3,126 music fans. In a word, wow.
Modest expectations aside, the folks at Realize Bradenton should have been pretty confident in a big turnout after Riverwalk gained a large following after hosting Taste of Manatee and Art Slam since debuting in October.
As the umbrella organization for the city's cultural-oriented strategy for dynamic revitalization, Realize Bradenton works in conjunction with the Downtown Development Authority in promoting the city as a great place to live and visit. The blues festival accomplished that goal.
The blues festival can only help spread the Bradenton "brand" -- prominently launched last week at the Bradenton Area Convention Center with the newly minted Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. Both the center and EDC dropped "Manatee" from their names as the region unleashes a new marketing identity to stronger promote this area to attract business and economic development.
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The EDC's Nov. 27 Charting the Course event drew several hundred business and community leaders as a new slogan was unveiled: "Think Global. Think Bradenton Area."
The EDC worked with Atlas Advertising to conduct surveys and marketing research that found more businesses identified with "Bradenton Area" than Manatee or Sarasota.
Earlier this year, the county's sports tourism efforts also adopted a new name, the Bradenton Area Sports Commission. Just like Realize Bradenton, the commission is a private non-profit corporation that works in concert with government to promote the area.
While there was a bit of a dustup over the renaming of the Palmetto-based convention center after major renovations improved the facility greatly, this is a broad strategy that can only serve to pay dividends to Bradenton's sister city across the Manatee River.
The Bradenton Blues Festival dovetails perfectly into the new branding. With more than 52 organizations sponsoring the event, the community unity behind the effort is as amazing as attendance.
Paul Benjamin, the festival's Maine-based consultant, put the event into broad perspective:
"I've been doing festivals for 25 years. Any first-year event with a crowd of 800 to 1,200 is successful. They've doubled that. For a first-year festival, this is incredible. This is a perfect example that when everybody works together as a team, it works."
Congratulations to one and all who worked on this now annual event. Spread the Bradenton brand far and wide.