Since 1991, Sarasota music fans have flocked to the stage of the annual Sarasota Blues and Music Festival, which, with its regular lineups of blues legends, Grammy winners and Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famers, has become a mainstay in the community. This weekend, the festival, under new management, returns to Ed Smith Stadium.
After nearly 20 years of heading up the festival, concert producer Barbara Strauss sold her stake in the festival, which is now produced by Three Zebras Entertainment. Three Zebra’s General Manager Bill Haggett says he’s excited for the opportunity and that he realizes how important the festival is to Sarasota.
“We have a big legacy to live up to,” said Haggett. “It’s been 21 years of a great show. We’re just trying to live up to what’s been a mainstay in Sarasota for years and maintain that level of experience for people.”
Haggett brings 30 years of experience to his position as the festival’s new producer, including organizing B.B. King’s 80th birthday party, hosted by Montel Williams in Biloxi, Miss.
“That was probably my favorite experience,” he said. “There wasn’t a dull moment in the whole show.”
Haggett plans bring that same vibe to this year’s festival. He says the company was able to increase the budget from last year, allowed him to bring in national talent, which he feels will provide attendees with all-day entertainment.
This year’s lineup will include six acts, including headliner Delbert McClinton, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Ana Popovic, Curtis Salgado, Paul Thorn and child-prodigy openers, Pett Crow.
Haggett says there will also be an increased focus on family fun, with a Family Fun Zone, where children can participate in games and face painting.
Haggett says the biggest testament to his satisfaction with the talent is the difficulty he had in deciding the order in which they would play.
“The hardest thing I had to do was to take a group like this and put them in some kind of order,” he said. “Every one of them is a great artist who I would personally want to see. I’m excited for the whole lineup.”
IF YOU GO
Sarasota Blues Festival
When: Starts at 11 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 29
Where: Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St., Sarasota
Cost: $22 to $27
Info: Call 855-292-5837