Blues strike happiest fundraising note ever

Waterfront festival brings in record haul for local food bank

Helped by good weather and 150 performances, the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival broke a fundraising record this year, raising more than $545,000 for the Oregon Food Bank.

Festival coordinator Clay Fuller said the record-breaking year may have been helped by the number of New Orleans bands that appeared, which gave the festival more of a New Orleans theme than in past years.

'Our theme this year was to recognize and support the musicians residing in or originating from New Orleans,' Fuller said. 'We're feeling good about the theme … and how well it was received by the Portland community,' Fuller said.

Fundraising from the event, which began in 1987 as the Rose City Blues Festival, also was bolstered by organizers' decision to increase the suggested donation from $5 to $8, plus two cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank, Fuller said. The increased suggested donation also may have contributed to the average per-day attendance being slightly down at the festival this year, Fuller said.

He estimated that about 80,000 people attended this year's five-day festival. Last year, about 80,000 people attended what was a four-day event.

'What it did is it made for a comfortable park in terms of not totally overcrowding the capacity - which we've experienced in the past,' Fuller said.

The Waterfront Blues Festival takes place on four stages in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on the west bank of the Willamette River in downtown Portland, with satellite and after-hours events elsewhere in town and on riverboat cruises.

All donations for attendance at the festival benefit Oregon Food Bank's mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes, organizers said.

The previous fundraising record for the festival was nearly $364,000, set in 2003.

Next year's festival will be July 4 through July 8.

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