Reading Blues Fest to give local economy, artists financial boost | Berks Regional News

READING, Pa. – Downtown Reading is alive with the fifth annual Blues Fest going on.

The event, which takes place Sunday, is expected to bring more than 1,500 people to Berks County over the weekend.

Organizers say they believe the blues also bring a boost to the local economy. Artists like BC Blue, aka Bev Conklin, say they couldn’t feel better.

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Playing the blues is like breathing, and we love to breathe, says BC Blue.

“We have blues fans from all over the country come in,” said Justin Heimbecker, executive director of Berks Arts. “Reading is a big music town, with Berks Jazz Fest, Reading Blues Fest and other festivals and concerts.”

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More than 1,500 people are expected to pack the hotel this weekend, according to Berks Arts, which Heimbecker says is making it the biggest Blues Fest yet.

From the drinks on tap to the food served at local restaurants, organizers say events like Jazz Fest and Blues Fest really bring the local economy to life.

Learning to perform at Blues Fest

“Part of the reason Berks Arts exists is to create an economic impact on the community, so we see hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, grocery stores all making money because of it,” Heimbecker added.

It brings resilience to artists and their record labels.

“Oh, it helps a lot. Really the goal is the festival gigs because they are the best paying gigs. There are things that are sold. There are a lot of connections,” said Sallie Bengtson, who is the owner and president of Nola Blue Records.

Bengston says these things are important, especially after the COVID-19 lockdown.

“There’s a lot of lost income and lost opportunities,” Bengston added. “That spills over into the hotels and into the community. It’s great.”

Bengston says events like the Reading Blues Fest help artists grow their following and be exposed to new audiences.

“There’s world-class talent here playing all over the world. To have them here in Reading and to have everything buzzing with such excitement, it’s fantastic. I’m very proud,” he added.

Jazz Fest has an estimated $20 million impact on the Reading area. Organizers say it’s too early to say what Reading Blues Fest will bring.

“We will be doing our 32nd Jazz Fest here in March. “This is 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 list of artists, people can visit the Blues Fest website.


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