Can an event become a tradition in just its second year?
Bob Hastings thinks so. The former Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce director thinks the Gloucester Blues Festival, which he co-founded in 2012, is already establishing itself as a local tradition. And with the second annual festival ready to play out under predicted sunny skies at Stage Fort Park this Saturday, there are already indications he’s right.
“It’s certainly building,” says Hastings, noting that ticket sales for this year’s fest on Saturday have already surpassed last year’s attendance of just under 1,000 (see news story, Page 1).
Plus, this year’s festival brings in another power-packed blues lineup headlined by Ana Popovic and Tommy Castro and backed by other national acts and performers with extensive New England followings as well.
The festival, of course, is about celebrating the blues. And Hastings said he’s been told that this year’s Gloucester event is emerging as possibly the best blues festival being held anywhere in the country this August. But in that sense, the growing Gloucester Blues Festival is about much more than music.
“First, it generates tremendous publicity for Gloucester,” said Hastings, noting that the festival has drawn interest among music radio stations and in other media not only around Boston and New England, but around the country. That’s included the national show “Graveyard Blues,” anchored at Long Island’s WRCN.
Beyond that, Hastings said, the Blues Festival serves as a classic arts-based economic development tool, adding that he and producing partner Paul Benjamin of Maine have already taken some steps toward that goal in the first two years.
The festival’s 2-acre site within the 55-acre Stage Fort, will also include 8-10 food vendors, with other booths also selling clothing, blues paraphernalia and other items targeting the blues crowd, which averages around 45 years old, Hastings said. And the festival is geared toward steering visitors into the city’s downtown when the show’s over.
“That’s why we release our guests at 7 p.m.,” said Hastings noting the festival’s 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. running time. “We’ll be promoting from the stage the fact that Minglewood at Lat43 and the Dog Bar will have blues acts performing that night, and we want to encourage people to go into our downtown and takes in those acts, too.”
Down the road, Hastings said he can see the Blues Festival perhaps expanding to two days, and spilling over into the city’s downtown, with other acts performing on street stages, similar to the Downtown Block Parties. That, in fact, is what’s evolved in Rockland, Maine, where that blues festival — also founded and promoted by Benjamin — has not only earned musical praise but economic development awards as well.
“We want people to embrace this,” Hastings said, “this is a true destination event, and as far as we’re concerned, it can only grow.”
That already makes the 2nd Gloucester Blues Festival a growing Gloucester tradition.
Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3432, or at email@example.com.