It’s been recently making the rounds in the local news circuit that Artsquest has announced its’ main festivals for the new SteelStacks center. I am far from the first person to heap loads of praise on something before I see how it is or how it will stack up to other events, but this year looks like it could be a spectacular year to start hosting Blues (Blast Furnace Blues Festival) and Jazz (RiverJazz Festival) festivals at the new venue.
The main reason the Blues and Jazz festivals will succeed is not the draw of the Musikfest crowd, the casino crowd, or any other large swarm of people from the valley. While a good amount of people from these constituencies may make up some of the attendance, the majority I feel will be coming from the now defunct Pocono Blues Festival. The 20th iteration of the festival was set to be held this year at Big Boulder and due to economic outlooks and other factors the resort company decided not to host the celebration this year. The Pocono Blues Festival was no small rinky-dink affair. Drawing near to over 13,000 visitors year after year it became one of the premiere jazz/blues destinations in the country. Michael Cloeren, founder and maintainer of the festivals was let go from the company, according to the Blues Revue. The award-winning organizer is rumored to be working on a new location/festival, but who knows if it’s feasible to find a venue and organize logistics for a 10,000+ person event this late in the game.
While all of this is disconcerting news for those who flocked to the Pocono Blues Festival, it’s great news for the folks over at Artsquest. When I first heard the line-up of possible festivals and events to be held at the centers I was dismayed to hear some would be copies of already popular and successful events in the area. The only thing this would do would create an oversaturation of similar events and either older events would shut down in lieu of the new events or the new ones would fail. Market saturation also causes tough choices for festival-goers. Choosing what festival to attend over another might be necessary due to costs involved, especially with the job market still in the gutter.
Although I hate to see the Pocono Blues Festival fall on hard times, I’m glad that all of these festivals will not be competing over each other. If Artsquest can draw in the crowd that the Pocono Blues Festival left behind, they’ll be guaranteed a 12-13,000 person crowd. Add in the people that will attend just because it’s close to the valley and near the casino and you’ve just made yourself quite a successful first year. The interesting thing left to pan out is how it will be with two different festivals. In many places blues and jazz are combined into one festival due to the overlap in artists and sounds. Will that huge crowd be divided into two sectors, nearing 6500 people for each festival or will they venture out for both? I think with a combined festival the draw would be even larger, but that may be a plan for the future. No matter what, however, Artsquest shouldn’t have a hard time drawing people to the SteelStacks for their Jazz and Blues festivals this year. If the Pocono Blues Festival does end up coming back for the 2012 season I hope the SteelStacks project doesn’t draw away enough to shut down the festival forever. Only time will tell.
Although there’s not a lot online yet, head over to the Artsquest festival page for more information on the festivals.
Photo above courtesy of the Pocono Blues Festival