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Fun for Blues Fans = Food for Oregonians in Need

PHOTO: Music-lovers from around the world converge on the downtown Portland waterfront over the July 4th weekend for music and fireworks at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Credit: Joe Cantrell for Oregon Food Bank.
PHOTO: Music-lovers from around the world converge on the downtown Portland waterfront over the July 4th weekend for music and fireworks at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Credit: Joe Cantrell for Oregon Food Bank.
July 3, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Long after the music ends at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland this holiday weekend, the proceeds will be spent feeding people throughout Oregon and in Clark County, Wash.

The festival is the major fundraiser of the year for the Oregon Food Bank.

Artistic director Peter Dammann, who books more than 120 bands for the four-day festival, said while the performers sometimes have to say "yes" or "no" based on their schedules, it isn't a tough sell because they have heard about the event and support the cause.

"People have a good feeling about it; it's not just a big concert," Dammann said. "I get that constantly, from the sort of mid-level touring acts to the big headliners. The fact that it's the Food Bank really driving this is completely responsible for the vibe that we have here."

Dammann said some musicians tell him that at times in their own lives, they have needed emergency food and were helped by a food bank.

Those who play at the Waterfront Blues Festival are paid for the gig through sponsorships and a portion of the food and beverage concessions, so that all donations from fans can go to support the Food Bank.

This year's goal seems massive, at $1 million and 115,000 pounds of canned goods. However, with a crowd of more than 100,000 over the four days and nights of the festival, Laura Golino de Lovato, development director for the Oregon Food Bank, said it's doable. She added that there are plenty of priorities for those dollars.

"They're used to cover all sorts of costs," she said, "from operating to food purchase, to putting fuel in a truck, to keeping the warehouse open - all geared toward our core services of acquisition of emergency food and distribution of that food."

The Food Bank offers information onsite about how festival-goers can help the statewide network, and one statistic cited by de Lovato might surprise: one-third of the people who are hungry in Oregon are children.

Admission for the first three days of the festival is $10 and two cans of food per day. For Sunday, a special pass can be purchased at the festival ticket booth or online at waterfrontbluesfest.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR