Taste of the Blues fundraiser set in Aztec

Event raises money for Animas River Blues and Brews Fest in July

Mike Easterling
The Blues Guild of Albuquerque will provide the entertainment during this weekend's Taste of the Blues fundraiser at Crash Music in Aztec.

FARMINGTON — Now in its third year, the annual Taste of the Blues fundraiser for the Animas River Blues and Brews Fest that will take place in July in Aztec serves two purposes — one just as important as the other, organizer Katee McClure says.

The event is designed to raise approximately $2,000 toward the operating costs of the festival, but it also serves to increase awareness of the festival and encourage local music lovers to attend.

“The most important thing to me is to keep (the festival) going, so I would say both,” McClure said when asked to name which Taste of the Blues function is more vital.

McClure serves as president and entertainment director of Animas River Arts & Entertainment, the nonprofit organization that stages the festival, and is an Aztec City Commissioner. So she brings an elected official’s wary eye to the financial operations of the group.

“Every penny counts,” she said of the money the fundraiser is expected to generate. “That pays for half the stage and the tenting.”

But it doesn’t begin to cover the entire cost of mounting the festival. McClure said the event’s budget runs between $27,000 and $30,000 a year, and with the local economy continuing to struggle, it can be a challenge to raise that kind of money.

The Todd Tijerina Band performs during the 2014 Animas River Blues and Brews Fest in Aztec. The event returns in July.

“We’re hoping for a good turnout (at the fundraiser) because we don’t have as many sponsors (for the festival) as we normally have,” she said.

Some of that shortfall has been made up through the group’s receipt of a grant from an anonymous donor, McClure said.

“I can’t tell you who it’s from because they asked me not to do that,” she said. “But it’s to keep the arts going.”

And McClure considers the Animas River Blues and Brews Fest an integral part of the arts scene in the Four Corners. She’s been a part of the festival one way or another since it began 11 years ago, and it has become a labor of love — one she feels a great deal of responsibility for.

“I watch every penny,” she said. “I try to get the best for our dollar. And that’s actually getting easier. It used to be harder.”

Experience has been a good teacher, McClure said. She’s learned how to zero in on the fixed costs — stage rental, sound, park rental and police — and bargain with talent agents, so that the quality of the performers remains high while their prices are affordable.

“We have 1,000 people attend this festival every year, and many of them return,” she said. “They get so much bang for their buck — for $22, they get five really good bands, and they can bring their kids and spend the whole days there.”

McClure said one-third of the cost of staging the festival each year typically is met through those aforementioned sponsorships.

“We’re not going to hit that mark this year,” she said, attributing the decline in that revenue to the economy. “But that’s not a surprise.”

There is usually some money left in the nonprofit group’s coffers each year when the festival is over, and McClure said those funds will be counted on to mount this year’s festival.

“We may not have money left over this year, but we had some left over from last year,” she said.

The fundraiser itself will feature a full evening of food, drink and entertainment. The admission price includes music by the Blues Guild of Albuquerque featuring Joe “Daddy” Warner, as well as food from St. Claire’s Winery & Bistro, nonalcoholic drinks, desserts and a cash bar.

McClure said Warner was recommended to her by Crash Music owner George Rowe.

“Every time when we do Taste of the Blues, we look to keep the talent local,” she said. “And by that I mean from New Mexico or Durango (Colo.).”

The fundraiser aims to give local bands some exposure, she said, citing the Shawn Arrington Band as an example. Arrington was a volunteer for the festival for years, she said, and when he put together his own blues band, McClure thought enough of the group to book it for last year’s fundraiser. His performance there was so good that McClure wound up booking him as an opening act for the festival itself.

She wishes there were more local success stories like that, but she pointed out that there is a limited number of local blues acts from which to choose.

“There’s not a ton of them,” she said. “This isn’t LA or Chicago.”

McClure also insists on keeping the festival musically pure.

“It’s strictly blues,” she said. “We don’t throw a rock ‘n’ roll band in there.”

This year’s festival is scheduled for Saturday, July 16, at Riverside Park in Aztec and features a lineup of the Missy Andersen Band, the Wesley Pruitt Band, Jay White and the Blues Commanders, the Zac Harmon Band and the Blues Guild of Albuquerque. Tickets are $22 in advance at and $25 at the gate. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. The gates will open at noon, and the music will continue until 10 p.m.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Taste of the Blues fundraiser

When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 3

Where: Crash Music at the Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave. in Aztec

Tickets: $18 in advance at, $20 at the door

For more information: Call Katee McClure at 505-330-4616