The Vero Beach Blues Festival Buzz!
Vero Beach Blues Festival
Vero Beach Fairgrounds
Feb 25 & 26, 2023
By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro © March 2023
I very regularly attend a handful of blues festivals in different cities throughout the state of Florida. Without fail, at pretty much all of those events I can count on running into many of my blues friends from all over the country. Yes, these high-quality festivals have that kind of drawing power. With that said, although that did not happen at this event, you can mark my words that it's just a matter of a very short time before that changes. The Vero Beach Blues Festival will soon become a "Destination Festival". It has to - and here is why.
Let me start with the amazing lineup which featured everything from excellent local acts to: International Blues Challenge winners; Rising Star Award winners; Blues Music Award winners; and yes, even a Grammy Award winner. By featuring six acts on Saturday and four on Sunday (allowing for an early evening ending) even the way these acts were scheduled was a home run. Saturday's featured artists were: Gitlo Lee; The Blues Crusaders; Joe "Survival" Caruso; Annika Chambers & Paul DesLauriers; Selwyn Birchwood; and "The Mississippi Blues Child" - Mr. Sipp; while Sunday's were: Ben Flournoy; JP Soars & The Red Hots; The Gabe Stillman Band; and the legendary "Real Deal" bluesman - John Primer. Is that not a group you'd travel to Florida to see? Of Course it is.....especially in Febrrrruary.
Now let me tell you about the cost of admission. As you'd expect, the price of an event like this has to be something like $30 for Saturday, $20 for Sunday or $40 for both days, right? Wrong! Very Wrong! The fee to attend the Vero Beach Blues Festival was only $5.00 per day, I repeat.....five dollars per day. How that happens is part of the organizer's genius - which I'll get to later - and another part of it is due to generous sponsorship, with the main one - Dave Golden Law Offices - passing out thousands of free koozies.
As far as the Vero Beach Fairgrounds go, I doubt you could put any number of people on the property that would make it uncomfortable. This, of course, makes it an excellent venue for a festival. In addition to the wide-open lawn space for chairs and blankets, there was a very spacious VIP tent and a very large "BIG Blues Lounge Tent" that seated up to 650 (more if you brought a chair) and featured a huge full liquor bar.
Another fabulous part of this event, and most likely the big part of keeping the entrance fee so low, is that the arts & crafts vending event which coincided with the festival event was as grand as the festival itself. Unlike other blues festivals that offer vending space to a small group of merchants as a side show, the folks at Latitude-88, Inc. are professional arts and crafts event organizers and they signed up 180, yes, one-hundred-and-eighty vendors. The win/win with this is that the many who attended strictly for the arts and crafts were now exposed to some killer blues music and the fans attending for the music were exposed to a killer shopping experience. Interestingly, back in my vending days, I sold at several of this promoter's shows. As a result of that, I saw about twenty-five vendor friends that I hadn't seen in a few years and every one of them was quite happy with sales. BTW, I've attended "food festivals" that did not have the quantity and the quality of the food being offered here.
With this just being the second annual Vero Beach Blues Festival, it appears to me that this organization has indeed hit the ground running. Should you want to start making early plans to attend the third annual, it's going to be on Saturday and Sunday, February 24 & 25, 2024. If you do come in from out of the area - and you certainly should - consider making a week of it. Vero Beach, FL - a beautiful city with gorgeous beaches and a quaint downtown with good eateries and boutique shops - has a whole lot to offer.
For more information on this event just go to www.verobluesfest.com . That's where you'll be able to find out everything about retail and food vending opportunities, local lodging, next year's lineup, contact info, and a whole lot more. Just remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient