f
 May 21, 2010

Headliners bring it on home to Greeley

A great music festival can define a city: Think the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. The Greeley Blues Jam is quickly becoming a destination point for blues lovers of all stripes. The festival kicks off summer with two days of music on June 11 and 12, proving that singing the blues is good for the local economy.

Now in its sixth year, the Greeley Blues Jam is “solidly anchored, accepted and adored by the community,´ said Pam Bricker, chair of the festival.

But that wasn’t always the case. Music festivals are expensive to launch, costing upwards of $100,000. In 2004 when the city of Greeley sponsored the first blues festival, it lost money.

This year the city and the Greeley Chamber of Commerce are presenting sponsors, offering in-kind support, in tandem with an impressive list of local sponsoring businesses. The key, Bricker said, is that the Blues Jam is nonprofit.

“When it’s a nonprofit festival, people are more willing to donate,” she added. “And it’s an ownership thing. The Blues Jam belongs to Greeley, and because of that businesses become very generous. We have an incredible list of sponsors contributing not only money but things like tents, food, liquor, sod and other services. “

In a report to the city, the chamber estimates that the festival creates an economic impact of $275,000 each year.

“We base the formula on number of hotel rooms, number of room nights, and on average daily spending,” according to Kim Parker, conference and tourist director for the chamber. “We figured $275,000 for last year, and we expect at least the same and probably more this year. Part of what makes the Blues Jam successful is the organization. There is a very strong committee, a good business plan – and it is an event set up to sustain itself.”

Bricker also sees the Blues Jam from a community perspective.

“Greeley is such a great music city,” she said. “We have the UNC Jazz Festival and the Greeley Philharmonic, a really impressive music tradition, and the Blues Jam is a part of that.”

At the same time, the festival is attracting national attention through coverage in Blues Revue Magazine, the world’s largest publication dedicated to the blues.

“People are coming to the Blues Jam and making a vacation out of it,” Bricker explained. “They check out the music and then visit the mountains, see Colorado.”

In fact, the Greeley Blues Jam was named the Outstanding Tourism Event of 2010 by the Greeley Convention and Visitors Bureau on May 13, but organizers say it’s nothing but a party.

Big-name headliners

Multiple headliners will take the stage on Saturday, June 12, at the Island Grove Arena. The Fabulous Thunderbirds are best known for their cross-over hits “Wrap It Up” and “Tuff Enuff” during the 1980s, but band leader Kim Wilson has always put the blues at the center of their music. Shemekia Copeland, daughter of late blues guitarist Jonny Copeland, will rock the house with her soulful voice. And Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth will hit the stage two weeks before he performs with Eric Clapton at his Crossroads Guitar Festival.

“All three acts have big followings,” Bricker said. “Every year the committee puts together a wish list of performers. We try to get a diversity, not all guitarists or all harmonica players. We try to pick a headlining act that non-blues lovers may know. Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds is a great example of that. We are trying to introduce the audience to the best out there.”

Another half-dozen bands perform between main stage sets on the Back Porch Stage, making the music nonstop.

And what about that budget item for sod? The Island Grove Arena is best-known as a rodeo venue, but for the Blues Jam, ticket holders can purchase sod at 15 cents per square foot to help cover the cost of covering the dirt ring.

“Every year it sells out,” Bricker says, “For that day Island Grove is no longer a rodeo arena but a closed park.”

The live blues start on Friday, June 11, at 3 pm in downtown Greeley, and the Seattle band Too Slim and the Tail Draggers will take the stage for a free concert between 5 and 8 pm.

All of the events are family friendly, and on Saturday kids 12 and under get in free. Part of the Blues Jam mission is to introduce kids to this great American musical tradition. Saturday’s events will include a “Blues 101 stage for kids of all ages,” Bricker laughs. “They can learn to play harmonica, and listen to musicians playing more historical sets of blues music. We encourage kids to come out and get involved, learn about the music.”

Tickets are on sale at the Union Colony Civic Center box office for $25; they will be $30 at the gate. For more information contact the Greeley Chamber of Commerce, 800-449-3866, or greeleybluesjam.com.

Dim the lights for intermission

On June 1, the Lincoln Center’s 1,180-seat Performance Hall and 220-seat Mini Theatre will both close as the city of Fort Collins undertakes a comprehensive renovation of the facility. It is scheduled to reopen April 1, 2011.

Kiki Gilderhus, head of Art History Liberal Studies at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Denver, covers the arts for the Business Report. Contact her at news@ncbr.com.

A great music festival can define a city: Think the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. The Greeley Blues Jam is quickly becoming a destination point for blues lovers of all stripes. The festival kicks off summer with two days of music on June 11 and 12, proving that singing the blues is good for the local economy.

Now in its sixth year, the Greeley Blues Jam is “solidly anchored, accepted and adored by the community,´ said Pam Bricker, chair of the festival.

But that wasn’t always the case. Music festivals…

Related Content