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Bradenton Blues Festival Kicks Off Saturday

The inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival roars to life on Bradenton's new Riverwalk this weekend.

Since its grand opening in October, the Bradenton Riverwalk has quickly established itself as the most happening place to be in Manatee County — and this weekend is certainly no exception.

On Saturday, Realize Bradenton will launch one of its biggest blockbuster events of the year: the inagural Bradenton Blues Festival. And Sarasota, you're invited to the regional event.

The festival is slated to be an all-day affair, kicking off at 10 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. Starting at 11 a.m., eight musical acts take their turn on the stage until the festival closes.

Fans of the blues, funk, folk and soul can look forward to a star-studded lineup at the 2012 Bradenton Blues Fest, expected to be worth the $30 admission at the gate. (Tickets are $25 if purchased ahead of time online or at the Friday, Nov. 30 Blues Appetizer Concert in the Pavilion Family Fun Zone from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Internationally-acclaimed blues and folk artist, Ruthie Foster, who hails from Gause Texas, takes the stage at 6:20 p.m. as the event headliner. She is preceded by Louisiana swamp blues master, Kenny Neal, at 4:55 p.m. and Chicago’s blues, funk and soul artist, Dave “Biscuit” Miller at 3:40 p.m.

Other acts include harmonica player and vocalist, Johnny Sansone; Florida’s Southern Hospitality; Homemade Jamz, whose sibling members range in age from 14 to 20, making them the “youngest blues band in America”; The Steve Harvey Horn Band featuring Henry Lawrence, and one-man-swamp-and-delta-blues-band, Ben Prestage.

In addition to a full day of live entertainment, the Bradenton Blues Festival highlights Realize Bradenton’s commitment to art, food and education initiatives in Manatee County with a showcase of vendors from local artisans, restaurants and charitable organizations.

Food, drink and art will be plentiful along the Riverwalk throughout the duration of the festival, but festival attendees are encouraged to bring a canned food donation for Meals on Wheels to help provide food for families during the holidays.

Realize Bradenton kicks off an educational component to the blues movement with a Blues in the Schools assembly program at the new theatre in Manatee High School Friday morning.

“The program gives the students the opportunity to attend a concert and meet with a professional group of musicians so that they can see what it would be like to be in a band,” said Manatee High School Performing Arts Academy co-leader, Linda Boone. “We’re hoping that as the Bradenton Blues Festival grows, the Blues in the Schools movement will grow with it and expand into other schools.”

Homemade Jamz — whose youth, Boone hopes, will make the group more relatable to high school students — is scheduled to present a workshop and performance for the students at Manatee High School as part of the initiative to encourage the musical arts in public schools.

“I remember a musical act came to my school when I was in third grade, and it had this huge impact on how I perceive the music industry today, said Ryan Perry, the 2--year-old lead guitarit and vocalist for Homemade Jamz. "I think programs like this are great because they give the kids something to get excited about, but they’re also very educational,” he said.

Blues in the Schools is funded by sales of a limited edition poster by Mary GrandePre, the local illustrator responsible for the iconic illustrations on the covers of the Harry Potter book series.

Manatee High school students are not the only ones who have the opportunity to experience a pre-Blues Festival concert treat on Friday.

The Selwyn Birchwood Band and Kettle of Fish will perform a preview show on the main Blues Festival stage during The Blues Appetizer Concert in the Riverwalk Pavilion and Family Fun Zone Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Blues Appetizer is the last chance for festival attendees to purchase tickets at the discounted $25 price — but be sure to bring cash, because ticket sales will be cash-only. Food and beverage will be available at this family-friendly event.

For more information about the upcoming first annual Bradenton Blues Festival and associated programming, please visit the official Bradenton Blues Festival website.

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