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Giving Hunger The Blues canceled

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Giving Hunger George HT 2011

Giving Hunger the Blues organizers Aundria Castleberry, George Generoso and Caroline Sansone (right) pose for a picture during the 2011 event. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE

For nearly two decades, Giving Hunger the Blues ranked as one of Sarasota's most beloved, family-friendly concert events. “American Idol” finalist Syesha Mercado (now a star on Broadway), AC/DC singer Brian Johnson and former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dan Toler were among the many local entertainers who donated their time to perform at the Sarasota fundraiser that generated more than $1 million for the All Faiths Food Bank. On Monday, though, The Generoso Foundation announced its decision to cancel Giving Hunger the Blues.

“This is a labor of love for me, not a financial thing for me, and I’m just giving it a break,” George Generoso said from the bar at his Five O’Clock Club. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of time. The pureness of it seems to be just not there for me and I just don’t know any other way to say it. It’s just sad. It’s something I’ve loved for 18 years.”

Photo Gallery: Giving Hunger the Blues 2013

Generoso held the first Giving Hunger the Blues in the back of his Five O’Clock Club in 1996. The memorial to his mother raised about $1,000 for All Faiths Food Bank that year. It grew to become an annual block party featuring two stages and vendors on Hillview Street near Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

“I grew up as a poor person in the slums of New Haven, Conn.,” Generoso said during an interview with this reporter to advance Giving Hunger the Blues last year. “But my mother was the type of person if someone was out of work, she’d be bringing over a casserole and that’s where this came from.”

Syesha HT 2008

Syesha Mercado points to herself while holding a Herald-Tribune poster page of her image while waiting in a limousine outside of the Fox 13 studio in Tampa on Friday morning. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE / 2008

In 2009, Mercado performed at Giving Hunger the Blues less than a year after finishing in the Top 3 on “American Idol” and completing a summer arena tour with the other finalists from the popular Fox show.

“Syesha was such a special thing,” Generoso recalled. “She played at our youth stage when she was kid and said she was going to come back and headline this thing. I thought it was real sweet of her to do. She had to fly in from California.”

Giving Hunger the Blues was expected to draw more than 5,000 people last year with every $5 collected at the door buying food for 40 meals. Despite rain, Giving Hunger the Blues reported a strong turnout.

In early February, organizers announced that the 19th annual Giving Hunger the Blues festival would be bumped back this year from March to October. But holding the event in the fall presented a fresh batch of problems and Generoso decided to pull the plug.

“I’m proud of what it is and I don’t want it to just linger out there,” Generoso said. “More than anything I just want to thank everybody for their support to help the community and make a difference.”



Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013
WADE TATANGELO is the editor of TICKET + and a contributor at TicketSarasota.com. He has been an entertainment editor, reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013 and writes the weekly Bar Tab column. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: April 28, 2014
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