READING, Pennsylvania – Downtown Reading is alive with the fifth annual Blues Fest underway.
The event, which runs through Sunday, is expected to draw more than 1,500 people to Berks County over the weekend.
Organizers say they believe the blues also provide a boost to the local economy. Artists like BC Blue, aka Bev Conklin, say they couldn’t feel better.
“Playing the blues is like breathing, and we love to breathe,” BC Blue said.
“We have blues fans from all over the country coming in,” said Justin Heimbecker, executive director of Berks Arts. “Reading is a major musical city, between Berks Jazz Fest, Reading Blues Fest and many other festivals and concerts.”
More than 1,500 people are expected to pack the hotel over the weekend, according to Berks Arts, which Heimbecker says makes it the biggest Blues Fest yet.
From the drinks served to the food served at restaurants in the community, organizers say festivals like Jazz Fest and Blues Fest really boost the local economy.
“Part of the reason Berks Arts exists is to create economic impact for the community, so we see hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, grocery stores getting by financially,” Heimbecker added. .
It also provides a boost to performing artists and their record labels.
“Oh, that’s extremely helpful. The focus is really on the festival gigs, because those are the highest-paying gigs. There’s more merchandise being sold. There’s more connections,” Sallie Bengtson said. , owner and president of Nola Blue Records.
Bengston says these things are important, especially after the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“There’s so much lost revenue and lost opportunity,” Bengston added. “It trickles down to the hotels and the community. It’s just fantastic.”
Bengston says festivals like the Reading Blues Fest help artists expand their fan base and be exposed to new audiences.
“There are world-class talents here playing all over the world. To have them here in Reading and everything buzzing with excitement like that is just fantastic. So proud,” she added.
Jazz Fest has an estimated $20 million impact on the Reading area. Organizers say it’s too early to say what the Reading Blues Fest will bring.
“We’re going to do our 32nd Jazz Fest here in March. It’s number five here, so we’re going to keep growing and emulating that,” Heimbecker said.
For more information about the festival or to see the lineup of artists, people can visit the Blues Fest website.