DAVENPORT, IA – For the first time in 30 years, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society will not hold a Blues Festival this year.
Because of financial challenges, the MVBS announced Wednesday that the annual fest, planned for Sept. 5-6 in Davenport’s LeClaire Park, has been canceled.
“We are not able to proceed with a major event this year, so we will instead concentrate on continuing our existing programs, look to build funding and possibly hold a festival in 2016,” MVBS President Steve Heston said Wednesday in a news release.
“We are saddened to have to make this decision; however, if we take this opportunity to regroup and are able to gain some financial support, we can come back next year with some world-class musicians playing the blues,” he said.
The all-volunteer blues society had raised less than $3,000 toward a $50,000 goal to put on this year’s event. For 30 years, the blues fest took place during the Fourth of July weekend, but the MVBS board decided to move it this year — and scale it back — to avoid the possibility of flooding at LeClaire Park.
Flooding in the park forced moving the festival in 1993, 2001, 2008, 2013 and 2014.
The MVBS is giving this year’s donors for the festival the option of a refund or to apply it to a 2016 event, Mr. Heston said. “Sponsorships and grants are harder to find; companies don’t have as much money to give away,” he said, noting work on fundraising will continue.
The festival was launched in 1985 to expose the area to the native art form of blues-related music and to raise awareness and funds for blues education programs. Since then, MVBS has presented over 1,000 local, regional and nationally known acts, and the annual event became one of the top blues festivals in the country.
Other current programs of the MVBS include a Blues in the Schools educational program that reaches over 7,500 students annually, as well as a concert series that brings live blues to the Quad-Cities and radio shows on KALA-FM.
Each year, the MVBS plans and coordinates four to nine weeks of Blues in the Schools programming, including four to five weeklong artist residencies and one monthlong summer residency. Performances are free and expose a wide segment of the community to blues music and the rich history and heritage of that music, according to the release.
During the past 30 years, the blues fest has contributed over $21 million to the local economy through revenue and taxes generated when attendees stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants and use other essential services, according to MVBS.