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UPDATED 5/8: Sarasota Blues Fest to be replaced

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UPDATED May 8: Sarasota Blues Fest replaced by Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival

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Hundreds of Blues lovers turned out early for the 10th Annual Sarasota Blues Fest in 2000 at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, the site where the new Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival is scheduled to take place Oct. 26. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVES/2000

UPDATED 3:30 p.m.: While ExtremeTix, which purchased The Sarasota Blues and Music Festival  in 2011, recently announced via its website that the Sarasota festival will not be taking place this year, a former employee for the Texas company has told the Herald-Tribune he will produce the Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival. The event, aimed to replace the Sarasota blues festival, will be Oct. 26 at the Sarasota Fairgrounds.

"It’s our intention to continue the tradition of blues and music in Sarasota," said Ed Morrell, of Turnstile Entertainment.  "We didn’t want to see the longstanding tradition go away. We want to continue to nurture and build it into something bigger and better, as it was before but do it in a little different direction."

Morrell served as managing director of Three Zebra Entertainment, the division of ExtremeTix that produced last year’s Sarasota Blues and Music Festival held Sept. 29, and the 2011 festival in conjunction with Barbara Strauss, who had been running the festival since 1993.

Morrell, who said he's a former Siesta Key resident living in Ohio but with Turnstile Entertainment based out of St. Petersburg, expects to announce the lineup for the inaugural Florida Blue Blues and Music Festival later this month.

A representative from ExtremeTix declined comment when reached by phone today at company headquarters in Houston, Tex., saying that a more detailed press release would be issued at a later time.

ORIGINAL POST: Sarasota Blues Fest canceled

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Thousands of people enjoyed the Sarasota Blues Fest ever year for more than two decades. COURTESY PHOTO

For more than two decades people have been flocking to the Sarasota Blues Fest to see performances by the likes of Gregg Allman, Buddy Guy and Trombone Shorty. The festival was held at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds but moved to the Ed Smith Stadium Complex in 2005 where it remained through 2012. After changing owners, though, it appears the festival is done, at least for this year.

"Thank you for your inquiries and support regarding the Festival," reads a statement on the Sarasota Blues & Music Festival website. "With great consideration we have decided to take the year off. That means unfortunately there will not be a Bluesfest in Sarasota in 2013. We appreciate your continued interest and look forward to 2014!"

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Gregg Allman performing at the Sarasota Blues Fest in 1998. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former Sarasota resident also played the Fest in 1994, 2000 and 2006. COURTESY PHOTO

The Sarasota Blues Fest, the name for most of its long run, was started in 1991 by the Sarasota Blues Society and became a regional hit under the guidance of Sarasota-based concert producer Barbara Strauss, who took over the festival in 1993 and ran it until 2010.

In 2011 Strauss sold her stake in the festival to ExtremeTix, an entertainment company headquartered in Houston, Texas, that tickets and produces a number of other festivals around the country.

"Disappointed does not begin to express how I feel, not only for me, but for the 100 people who worked the festival and all the national and local musicians who played," Strauss said.

"It's very sad. When I turned it over to ExtremeTix it was like my baby that I had raised for 18 years and sending it off to college. It was time to pass it on to someone I thought could nurture it and help it grow. But that is not what happened."

Asked if she is interested in taking back the Sarasota Blues Fest, Strauss paused before saying, "You never know what will happen in the future."

This is a developing story. Please check back for more details.

Last modified: May 8, 2013
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