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 37 foreign countries. People in Romania, Australia and China were watching Marcia Ball, Billy Branch, Samantha Fish and the other nationally known blues acts rouse 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 or 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 three foreign countries. Of the Floridians in the crowd, 87 percent came from outside Manatee.
Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, attributes the success of the blues festival to the artistic talent involved, plus a community effort involving many organizations, businesses and 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 working with Realize Bradenton to make the festival a success: Downtown Development Authority, Blues Music Magazine, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., METV and 62 business sponsors.
Beautiful Florida December weather also contributed to the festival's success this year. Visitors and artists from northern states commented on the balmy temperatures and sunny skies.
The 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.