Over the six years the Venice Blues Festival has been held, it’s become one of the most popular annual events on the Suncoast.

Though the majority of national and local blues artists are performing at Maxine Barritt Park on Nov. 17, the musical weekend actually kicks off on Nov. 16 with the Sunset Blues Crawl.

Ed Kirk, director and organizer of the Venice Blues festival, said that the Crawl had been held in Downtown Venice in previous years, but will be taking place at the same park as the Saturday festival this time around.

“This is our community night to support the Habitat of Humanity of South Sarasota,” he said. “The five dollar donation fee we request that night goes directly to Habitat.”

Even at Saturday’s event, a portion of the proceeds is split between Habitat for Humanity of South Sarasota and the UPBEAT MUSIC Foundation, a community organization which supports music and the arts in local communities.

There will be three bands performing at the Sunset Blues Crawl this year, beginning at 5 p.m. and lasting until 10 p.m.

The Alex Lopez Express’s front man is an acclaimed guitarist and emerging artist who is quickly taking the blues/rock scene by storm. Alex was born in the heartland of Rock n Roll Cleveland Ohio and started playing keyboards before becoming inspired by British blues/rock bands to master the guitar.

Three-time Superbowl winner and Jazz/Blues singer Henry Lawrence will be joining The Steve Arvey Band for a set at the Sunset Blues Crawl. Mostly raised in the Chicago area, Steve Arvey re-located to Havana Cuba in 1958 where he lived with his family until 1961, when he returned to Chicago and was surrounded by the music he loved.

Kirk said that the third performing group is a perennial crowd favorite with Venice blues music lovers.

“Our local artist focus will be Victoria Ginty and Ladyhawke,” he said. “They will also be representing the Suncoast Blues Society as Best Band at the January 2018 event in Memphis for the International Blues Competition.”

As a signed recording artist with BMG before the contraction of the recording industry, Ginty, a Tampa Bay native, had a No. 1 record on worldwide charts for 13 weeks and was nominated for “Singer-Songwriter of the Year” and “Video of the Year” with the Academy of Independent Recording Artists.

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