Less money, but no blues

August 24, 1997


Staff Writer

The 1997 Western Maryland Blues Fest made less than a third of the money than the first festival brought in last year, but organizers weren't crying the blues on Thursday.

"This is not an event to make money. It's a community event. If we break even we're happy," said Downtown Coordinator Karen Giffin.

"It's amazing the amount of sponsors we had this year," a sign people liked the event, Giffin said.

The June 6-8 event drew $41,187 in sponsorship funding compared with $23,630 the year before, Giffin said.

But the festival made only $668 this year compared to $2,500 last year, according to Giffin.

"It was a larger festival this year," she said.

The festival lost money on its headline act, Luther Allison.

Julie Donet, fund-raising co-chairwoman, estimated the festival lost up to $5,000 on the Saturday night concert at the Maryland Theatre.


"Being Luther Allison, it was a little bit of a surprise," Giffin said.

The blues fest was one of Allison's last performances. He died of cancer earlier this month.

"That show was really phenomenal and of course, nobody is going to see it again," Donet said.

Many people probably were attracted to the festival because they saw that Allison was the headline act, but didn't attend his Saturday night concert, organizers said.

About 13,000 people attended this year's festival, compared to 8,000 last year.

Two options organizers will consider for the next festival are changing the time of the performance at the theater and getting a specific sponsor for that act.

Donet said festival attendees might not have wanted to pay $25 for the concert ticket after enjoying some great performances at the downtown street festival for little or no cost.

The concert could be moved to Friday night before the street festival begins, Giffin said.

The event helped raise money for some local nonprofit groups.

- The Washington County Arts Council made $4,000 from selling beer.

- The Community Action Council raised about $1,700 from selling Cokes and food from Kerch's.

- The Washington County Historical Society raised $1,500 through a back porch concert at the Miller House the Thursday before the festival. Blues guitarist Ben Andrews performed.

- The American Heart Association made about $200 from selling fruit cups.

The major sponsors of the event will return for next year's festival June 5-7, Giffin said. They are the Maryland State Arts Council, Home Federal Savings Bank, Wantz Distributors Inc. and Antietam Cable Television.

The state arts council will provide a $7,000 grant toward next year's festival, and the local arts council will donate $2,000, Giffin said.

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