(WINDSOR, ON) – Fans are gearing up in anticipation of the premier musical event of the summer on the Windsor waterfront. Each year, Bluesfest Windsor takes over the Festival Plaza stage for four days of world class entertainment, drawing audiences from across North America.
This year’s edition is no different as Night Ranger, Colin James, Eddie Money, and Beth Hart headline the four nights, augmented by the likes of Jonny Lang, Extreme, Pat Travers Band, Sugaray Rayford, Danielle Nicole, and Angel Forrest. A second stage, called Bluestown, will host supporting acts South River Slim, Greatest Hits Live, United Snakes, and The Instinct, who will perform between feature sets on the main stage.
For the first time in the history of Bluesfest the Sunday schedule will be sold out. The Grammy-nominated Hart will close Bluesfest, but will be immediately followed by a special presentation of Back to the 90s, the dopest group of Rap, Hip-Hop, and R&B artists who set the trends and defined the decade. Enter here for your chance to win tickets to Bluesfest.
Most people, however, are unaware of exactly what it takes to stage a festival of this calibre. At the heart of the machine and pulling the levers to make everything happen is the tireless Carol Petroni. Once negotiations with the various artists are completed by her husband Rob and Tea Party drummer Jeff Burrows, Petroni takes charge to ensure the festival runs flawlessly.
Agencies, managers, publicists, and lawyers are just a few of people she has to work with in order to bring the bands on stage. The bigger the act, the more people are involved in the process.
“I have to collect and make sure I have riders and coordinate the backline that they need,” Petroni explained. Backline includes such items as amplifiers and speaker cabinets for guitars and keyboards and some bands are very specific about what they need.
“Also in there are hotels, what they need, how many rooms, how many people, how many nights, and everything that they want to eat and drink while they’re there,” she said. Bluesfest deals with hotels in Windsor and Detroit, depending on the demand for rooms. Competition for hotels comes from Detroit Tigers baseball, area tournaments and, of course, fans coming to the area to see Bluesfest.
A lot of strings had to be pulled last year when a major act at the festival arrived early and needed an extra night of rooms. Bluesfest Windsor is now on the radar for hoteliers. This year is the first time that hotels approached Petroni to book blocks of rooms in anticipation of the demand. With the completion of renovations at the Marriott and Holiday Inn downtown, more rooms have come online for Petroni.
All in, she anticipates that 190 rooms are needed over 4-day period of the festival for musicians, managers, roadies, etc. And, it’s not just a matter of booking a room. Most accommodations will be specified by contract rider, requiring a king or double bed, smoking or non-smoking, or any number of other needs.
Along with hotels, the Bluesfest also takes care of area transportation and immigration issues for border crossings.
When it comes to riders, Petroni has come across some unusual requests, the weirdest of which was the need for a box of bullets. A couple of emails cleared up the issue, that it was meant as a check that people were paying attention to the details.
As well, she looks after all the promotion material and gathers the needed usage rights. Every Bluesfest poster, ad, and piece of artwork which features an artist, the images have to be provided by the artist and the final product needs to be approved before it goes to print. The more entertainers on a poster, the more chance someone will take exception to the artwork and the longer it will take to get approved.
Petroni also coordinates all the interviews requests, for either pre-festival or during the event, develops tickets, including their approval by the acts, and keeps track of sales, liaising with the marketing, headed by Tom Harris, and managing the social media effort.
“Everyday I have to keep an eye on tickets to make sure we don’t oversell,” said Petroni. “Especially Sunday. We’re going to sell out.” That’s an estimated 7,000 people.
Petroni does all the accounting. She’s known as the Queen of Spreadsheets. There’s a spreadsheet for everything; sales, deposits, invoices, vendors, ticket distribution, merchandise, and cheque issues. She’s also the point of contact for all on-site vendors, as well as providing all the instructions for the security personnel.
A team a dozen strong works with and for Petroni to make Bluesfest Windsor successful. Along with an army of volunteers, who will assist from the week-long set-up to tear down, the festival is the most awaited event of Windsor’s summer entertainment schedule.