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Blues Fest has best year ever

July 29, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The 1998 Western Maryland Blues Fest had its best year yet, raising about $5,000 for next year's festival, officials said.

"We completed our most ambitious festival ever," Blues Fest Chairman Carl Disque told the mayor and City Council on Tuesday night as certificates were awarded to volunteers and city employees who helped organize the event.

Karen Giffin, spokeswoman for the City of Hagerstown, said three years ago when the first Western Maryland Blues Fest was held, organizers didn't expect the event to grow as fast as it has.

The first festival made $2,500 in profit compared with last year's festival, which made $668.

This year's festival on June 5-7 attracted 16,000 people, Giffin said.

Costing about $89,000, the festival was the most expensive one so far, with two stages in Public Square, Giffin said.

Julie Donat, chairwoman of the fund-raising committee, said more than $58,000 in grants and private donations were made to the festival, including $45,000 in individual and corporate donations.

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Other revenues came from ticket sales, T-shirt sales, poster sales and vendor fees, Giffin said.

The festival also raised money for other groups including $8,000 from beer sales for the Washington County Arts Council, said Executive Director Barbara Bland.

One sign of the Blues Fest's success in recent years is that two blues clubs have opened in Hagerstown since the first Blues Fest in 1996, Giffin said. The clubs are Harry's House of Blues on Public Square and the Bombay Blues Club at the Days Inn.

The city has already been notified it will receive a $4,500 grant from the Maryland Arts Council and a $1,500 grant from the Washington County Arts Council for next year's festival on June 4-6, Giffin said.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said at the end of the meeting that the Blues Fest was a good example of what someone with an idea could do.

Disque said Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein deserved credit for the festival becoming a reality.

Disque said he talked to Saum-Wicklein about his dream of a Blues Fest and she introduced him to Giffin to figure out the logistics.

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