To learn more about the Blues & BBQ Festival for Better Housing, visit bluesnbbq.com
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, visit habitatmetrodenver.org
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a venue change and smaller in-person audience this year, on July 18 and 19, the Blues & BBQ Festival for Better Housing raised around $50,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. That number represents a sizable portion of the total that the event has raised over the past 23 years, totalling more than $400,000.
“We wanted to do anything we could to keep the festival rolling,” said Arvadan Ranger Miller, who organizes the event.
Twenty three years ago, the event began after Miller volunteered to build a home with Habitat for Humanity, a 501(c)(3) that builds and sells homes to residents in need of affordable housing. Feeling a strong connection to the cause, Miller held a silent auction during a gig for his band, raising around $350 for the organization.
From there, the festival grew. Blues & BBQ became an Arvada tradition held in the streets of Olde Town before its continued growth sparked a change in location to Citizens Park in Edgewater.
“Arvada really rallied behind this festival,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dot Miller, who is married to Ranger and helped run the event. “There are patrons who come out every single year and this year, we sold out immediately.”
Ranger said he was determined to keep the event going this year, even as the pandemic posed some challenges to organizing the annual festival.
“Mainly, we wanted to keep the momentum going,” he said. “We know Habitat is down quite a bit from where they would normally be. We figured that at least we could give something.”
After researching possible locations, the Millers were able to hold the event at The Venue on Cortez Street in Denver. To keep guests safe, patrons wore masks when entering and moving around the space and seating was limited to 75 people.
The event was also livestreamed, with Ranger saying that several thousand viewers tuned into the stream each night.
The event included live music by a number of local bands, including Ranger's band, Glory Days, as well as live interviews with several guests from Arvada and Habitat for Humanity.
Lori and Glen Merica, who have attended several Blues & BBQ's in the past, said the event was a welcome return to the normalcy and fun that has been missing for many during the pandemic.
“This is our first live music since the shutdown and we love the family ties at this event,” Lori said. “Ranger and Dot put so much time into making it happen and they're so dedicated.”
Ranger said that organizers hope to return to their Edgewater location next year. He added that, after a successful first livestreaming of the event, he plans to continue streaming the event in the years to come.
Residents can still donate to the cause or learn more by visiting the event's website, bluesnbbq.com.
Through the event, organizers also coordinate an annual build with Habitat for Humanity. Ranger said he hopes the build will take place this fall, with the exact date and signup instructions to be posted on the festival's site later this year.
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