Local blues fest finds new home in Lakewood Ranch
Instruments widely used in blues music. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Local blues fest finds new home in Lakewood Ranch

  • Post author:

Blues fans of Sarasota received sad news in March 2024 when the cancellation of the Bradenton Blues Fest was announced. Once the place-to-be for music lovers, the festival has been held every December in the Bradenton area since 2012. The annual blues celebration featured an eclectic group of artists from Florida and across the country, some of whom are Grammy nominees. However, the community couldn’t be “blue” for long. A revamp of the festival under a different name has been announced in order to keep the musical tradition alive for years to come.  

The Bradenton Blues Fest was facilitated and supported by a local non-profit group, Realize, whose main goal is to provide a lively downtown experience for full time residents, seasonal visitors and tourists. The nonprofit, which has been around since 2010, hosts a multitude of recurring events to inspire the community to “realize the beauty of Bradenton,” including Music in the Park, the Start-up-Circle, Winter Wonderland and the Bradenton Market. Realize hosted the Bradenton Blues Fest to support the youth of Sarasota, specifically fundraising for art and music programs at local schools. Over several years, the blues fest garnered exponential popularity. However, after 12 years of blues, Realize, “conducted a thorough analysis of the event. With thoughtful consideration to the mission and goals, we have made the decision to discontinue the Blues Festival in 2024.” The nonprofit’s decision left its once-upon-a-time crowd confused, leaving a saxophone-shaped hole in the hearts of many. 

The cancellation of the event impacted more than just blues lovers. While fans of the festival were upset, the shocking news rocked former vendors as well. “It was like having the rug pulled out from under you,” David Shiplett, owner of Birdrock Taco Shack in Village of the Arts, told the Suncoast News Network. The Bradenton Blues Fest had once been an opportunity for food, beverage and art from the area to be sold and appreciated. 

They say all good things must come to an end, or in this case, must come back in a different form. Luckily for the Bradenton community, the blues fest is coming back this December under a different name. The Bradenton Blues Festival, whose founding director Johnette Isham died last year, is now being put on by the entertainment company, Independent Jones, and is partnering with former Realize organizer Paul Benjamin. Morgan Bettes Angell, the president of the entertainment company, is introducing the Lakewood Ranch Blues Festival. “The blues are like coming home for me,” Angell told the Bradenton Herald. “The Bradenton Blues Festival was the first festival I was a part of producing. Now we’re excited to bring a world-class festival to Lakewood Ranch.”

The Lakewood Ranch Music Festival will make its debut in December 2024. From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, former fans of the Bradenton Blues Fest can get their fix of blues at Waterside Park, which is located in Lakewood Ranch’s Waterside Place development. The entertainment center houses shops and restaurants, but the festival will take place in the middle of Kingfisher Lake on a man-made, eight-acre island. 

Organizers of the event are proud to announce a lineup of St. Louis blues and soul singers. Dylan Triplett, Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s, a California-based rock n’ roll and boogie band, Boston blues guitarist Monster Mike Welch and Kat Riggins, Miami-born international blues singer/songwriter, are among some of the notable artists to expect at the festival. A more detailed lineup including set times will be released closer to December. 

To hold the traditions of the former blues fest, the Lakewood Ranch Blues Fest will also offer local craft merchants, activities and food and beverage vendors. VIP tickets will be available for limited purchase closer to the day of the event. Regular tickets to the highly anticipated festival will be available for a presale price of $75, or for $90 at the door.

The idea that music has the power to bring community together rings true for the Bradenton area.  No matter the circumstances and amidst the obstacles, the region’s desire to continue to be a fun and enjoyable place is evident in the quick turnaround creation of the Lakewood Ranch Music Festival.

Leave a Reply