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Performing Art
Vyasa Dodson performs at Sarasota Blues and Music Festival 2012. Photo by Rachel O'Hara.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 4 years ago

Sarasota Blues and Music Festival canceled; new blues festival launches

by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

The Sarasota Blues Fest, a 20-plus-year entertainment mainstay, announced on its website at the start of the week that it is “taking the year off.” As the proverb goes — when one door closes, another opens, and Sarasota will have no shortage of the blues. Soon after announcing the Blues Fest would be no more in 2013, Turnstile Entertainment LLC announced it would launch a replacement festival — Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival, to be held Oct. 26, at the Sarasota Fairgrounds.

But talk of a new festival and ExtremeTix disbanding the old festival for at least a year is disappointing to the woman who ran the festival for 20 years, Barbara Strauss. She sold the festival to ExtremeTix in 2011:
“I really felt I was putting it in the hands of someone bigger than I was, and that they were going to raise the bar and take it to the next level — that’s what I felt, and that’s what I hoped for,” says Barbara Strauss. “Obviously, that’s not what happened.”

Strauss was responsible for bringing acts such as Jimmie Vaughan (1998), Gregg Allman (2000, 2006), Buddy Guy (2007), Little Feat (2009), and Trombone Shorty (2010), to name a few. Strauss says she and many of those involved with the festival in previous years are confused, and are scratching their heads saying, “What’s going on?”

Edward Morrell, the former managing director of the entertainment division of ExtremeTix, now of Turnstile Entertainment hasn’t heard of any controversy or confusion.

“It will be an improvement,” says Edward Morrell of the new festival, “Last year we learned a lot from producing the event for ExtremeTix and we plan to take what we learned from that and build upon it.”

ExtremeTix Inc. is a ticket sales and capabilities, marketing and promoter support company. Strauss ran the festival for ExtremeTix in 2011, and ExtremeTix enlisted Three Zebras Entertainment to run it in 2012. ExtremeTix Inc. officials declined to comment.

But ExtremeTix dissolved the Three Zebras branch because it didn’t fall into the business model. This meant that Morrell and the other employees of this branch had to find something else, including Sherry Dye who had also formerly worked in the entertainment division.

Morrell along with Sherry Dye and her husband, Bill West, bought Turnstile Entertainment The entertainment-and-events company based in St. Petersburg has been around for more than a decade, but according to Morrell, it had gone dormant. The trio resurrected the company and is in the process of planning the first Florida Blue Blues & Music Festival.

Instead of holding the festival at Ed Smith Stadium, it will be held at the Sarasota County Fair grounds. All Faiths Food Bank will still receive proceeds from the event, and Morrell still plans to host young prodigy musicians, like in previous years; he might even hire former blues festival staff.

“We have no reason not to,” says Morrell.

Morrell hopes to feature a lineup with national acts. Although he wouldn’t release or confirm any names, but he did say they are looking into acts similar to the likes of Jonny Lang, Trampled by Turtles, or Ruthie Foster.

A lineup will be announced at the end of this month. Stay tuned to for more information.

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