Braden­ton Blues Fes­ti­val mixes sell­out crowd with a sense of com­mu­nity

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Local - BY RYAN CALLIHAN


As the blues boomed through­out the Braden­ton River­walk on Sat­ur­day, it can be easy to as­sume the an­nual con­cert, now in its sev­enth year, is all about mu­sic.

But or­ga­niz­ers of the Braden­ton Blues Fes­ti­val say it’s so much more. The event sells out to a crowd of more than 3,000 folks ev­ery year thanks to a mix of new and up­com­ing blues artists, but the real draw is the over­whelm­ing sense of com­mu­nity.

“When you bring peo­ple to­gether like this, this is how you build com­mu­nity,” said Susie Bowie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Mana­tee Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion, who vol­un­teered at the event. “When you look at the state of our coun­try right now, hav­ing this fes­ti­val is a per­fect way to con­nect with a mid­dle ground.”

Of course, the mu­si­cal tal­ent also played a huge role in draw­ing a sell­out crowd for the sev­enth year in a row, said Art Ti­paldi, edi­tor-in-chief of Blues Mu­sic Mag­a­zine.

“This fes­ti­val ranks at an A-plus. It just hits so many bul­let points,” Ti­paldi said. “You’ve got tremen­dous artists all per­form­ing in one day and a free night for the com­mu­nity.”

This year’s lineup fea­tured Chris Cain, Kel­ley Hunt, Chri­s­tone “King­fish” In­gram, the Welch-Led­bet­ter Con­nec­tion and more. Ac­cord­ing to Johnette Isham, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Re­al­ize Braden­ton, the fes­ti­val drew in vis­i­tors from 10 coun­tries, 35 states and more than 200 dif­fer­ent Florida zip codes.

El­len­ton res­i­dent Rod­ney An­drews has at­tended the Braden­ton Blues Fes­ti­val six times. He quit both­er­ing to check the lineup be­fore buy­ing his ticket, “be­cause it’s al­ways top-notch.”

“I’d say this one is right up there with the best.

You can’t beat the weather, it’s well-run and it’s ef­fi­cient,” An­drews said. “Even at the free con­cert last night, the artists are


Susie Bowie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Mana­tee Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion

al­ways on time and right on the money.”

There’s no doubt that the qual­ity of mu­sic is what keeps An­drews com­ing back, but he said the crowd is also a big part of it, not­ing that there’s a re­lax­ing en­ergy at the River­walk when the blues fest is in town.

“They make it worth com­ing back,” he said. “There’s no other fes­ti­val that I’ve been to five times in a row.”

Kathy Baker made the drive from Win­ter Haven to at­tend the fes­ti­val this year. She said the com­mit­ment to true blues mu­sic is what keeps draw­ing her in.

“The mu­sic they bring is some of the best,” Baker said. “They keep it strictly blues and not south­ern rock.”

Braden­ton res­i­dents Rozanna Fisher and Rhonda Ander­son fre­quently at­tend the fes­ti­val, as well. Ander­son said the at­mos­phere has re­mained friendly and wel­com­ing over the years.

“A lot of these fes­ti­vals start re­ally good but then they fall off,” Ander­son said. “At the Braden­ton Blues Fes­ti­val they have dis­ci­pline, and that’s a good thing to have.”

That dis­ci­pline helps them con­nect with new friends ev­ery year, ac­cord­ing to Fisher.

“The sun and the mu­sic and the at­mos­phere is just awe­some,” Fisher said. “We meet fun peo­ple here be­cause every­one comes to have fun.”

Ti­paldi ex­plained that he of­ten has to an­swer the ques­tion of how he can stand to lis­ten to what many be­lieve is a genre ded­i­cated to sad­ness.

“What we’re hear­ing right now is heal­ing mu­sic that peo­ple come out for,” Ti­paldi said. “They say it’s sad mu­sic, but look around. These peo­ple are happy and danc­ing and hav­ing a great time.”

RYAN CALLIHAN rcal­li­[email protected]­

Chri­s­tone “King­fish” In­gram per­forms at the Braden­ton Blues Fes­ti­val. The 19-year-old artist from Mis­sis­sippi was a hit with Sat­ur­day’s sell­out crowd at the Braden­ton River­walk.

RYAN CALLIHAN rcal­li­[email protected]­

The Braden­ton Blues Fes­ti­val drew a sell­out crowd for the sev­enth straight year, or­ga­niz­ers say. The event is held an­nu­ally at the Braden­ton River­walk in front of a crowd of about 3,000 peo­ple.

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