Since late last year, founding organizer Ted Gehrke had been mounting what he called a “last-ditch” effort to keep the Metro Fountain Blues Festival alive. At the same time that the festival was celebrating its 30 anniversary in 2010, SJSU’s Associated Students was forced by its financial situation to pull out as the main sponsor.
By last month Gehrke had made peace with the circumstances, and he even wrote a speech that he planned to deliver when the Fountain Blues Festival All-Stars Band performed at Montalvo on March 2.
“I was going to give the going-away speech,” Gehrke says. “I had my ‘It’s been a great 30 years,’ wave-goodbye-and-fade-into-the-sunset ready for that gig. I was really hoping I wasn’t going to cry.”
But that very day, he got a call from a potential sponsor who expressed serious interest in supporting the festival. The speech went into his back pocket while he spent a few weeks nailing down the details. Luckily, he had prepared a long-term financial plan showing how the festival, with a few tweaks, could quickly be in the black. The deal came together, though the sponsor isn’t ready to be named.
With the date set for July 9, and the city giving him some workable terms on St. James Park, the key details were in place. His first calls were to secure the JC Smith-led Fountain Blues Festival All-Stars Band, and Tommy Castro, who had been holding part of his schedule in limbo for six months in order to accommodate the festival.
Gehrke admits to being somewhat surprised—but ultimately pleased—with how everything has worked out.
“All of a sudden, bam! I’m back in it. And I’m extremely happy.” Now comes the hard—but fun—part: mounting the festival and making sure its long-term future is secure. “We have got to show a profit this time,” he emphasizes. “The people who want to keep this thing going have got to support it.”
Ted has been doing a fantastic job with the Fountain Blues Festival all these years. This event has been a San Jose mainstay. While the city has dropped the ball on its festivals and celebrations over the years the Fountain Blues Event has managed to continue with a fraction of the money and resources the city has squandered.
If we don’t get justice then surely we should have Blues.
Over the years I heard much complaining about a $5 donation at the gate. Yet I literally had my elbows on the stage for the likes of Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Etta James, Bo Diddley, Sonny Landreth, Tommy Castro, Chris Cain … and the list goes on and on. I would had gladly paid $20 at the gait if only the headliner was playing, let alone 7 other awesome bands.
If you call yourself a blues person, save some money and be there to support this venue. This group has given us many years of hard work and awesome shows. We need to thank them with our support.
Blues fans – don’t let this festival die! I’ve seen many fantastic acts here over the years. I hope Ted can keep the quality high and the vibe mellow! Maybe a few more food concessions would generate some more money. Judi in Santa Cruz
You did it again! We enjoyed it—thanks for your efforts over the years.