Bradenton Means Business

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Let’s Connect, Bradenton!

Our neighbor, Realize Bradenton, has been a major force in the downtown community and Bradenton as a whole. Each year, Realize Bradenton hosts over 75 free events a year and promotes downtown Bradenton to 45,000 people every month. 

Next year is their 10 year anniversary and they have so many wonderful things in store including an illustrated children’s book and the Riverwalk East expansion. Johnette Isham and her team are so passionate about all-things Bradenton, especially downtown and we are fortunate to have them in our wonderful community for the past decade.

Realize Bradenton’s mission is to “bring people together to create a more vibrant, attractive, and prosperous Bradenton area for residents, visitors, and businesses.” The non-profit organization was formed in 2009 and “promotes redevelopment and economic growth in downtown Bradenton by transforming places, engaging people, and realizing possibilities.” 

Labeled as a “community-benefit organization,” Realize Bradenton is actively engaged in the community and seeks feedback from locals of all walks of life.

Johnette Isham, Realize Bradenton’s Executive Director, has over 30 years of experience in the arts, education, non-profit, corporate and government entities.  

Isham moved to Florida in 1988 when she became Vice President of Academic Affairs at Ringling College of Art & Design. 

In 2009, Johnette joined Realize Bradenton as its founding Executive Director and has been at the helm ever since. 

Johnette Isham, Executive Director of Realize Bradenton

Johnette is surrounded by an amazing staff who support Realize Bradenton’s mission and vision in helping “bring people together.” 

Realize Bradenton has won an array of awards throughout the years including AdFed Silver & Gold Addy, 2016’s Nonprofit Organization of the Year, Knight Cities Challenge Award in 2015 and Goodwill Ambassador of 2014.  

Realize Bradenton’s events such as the Bradenton Farmers’ Market and Music in the Park draw thousands during season. Every December, Realize Bradenton hosts their biggest event of the year – the Bradenton Blues Festival

Now in its eighth year, the blues fest draws more than 3,000 people from 39 states, 10 foreign countries, and 225 different zip codes from within Florida.

Johnette and members of the Realize Bradenton Team

The Bradenton Blues Fest weekend is December 6-8th and kicks off with the free Blues Appetizer concert on Friday night from 6-9pm on the Riverwalk Pavilion and will feature blues acts Rusty Wright Band and the Duffy Bishop Band. Make it a cozy night by bringing your lawn chairs and blankets. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. 

The sold-out and award-winning main event takes place on Saturday, December 7th and features a slew of blues music’s hottest acts including Grammy nominated and Blues Music Award Winner, Kenny Neal, four-time Blues Music Award Nominee Toronzo Cannon, and  two-time Blues Music Award Winner Biscuit Miller.


Wrapping up the weekend is the Sunday Blues Brunch at Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille Downtown Bradenton and features local act The Divebombers. Tickets are still on sale and attendees will be welcomed with a three-course meal by award-winning chef, Paul Mattison. You can purchase tickets online at BradentonBluesFestival.org.  

The blues festival is another life giving fundraiser that helps enhance the beauty of this community. The proceeds from the ticket sales are used for youth related events, art, and music education in local schools. “Blues in the Schools” is an outreach program that takes place the Friday before the blues fest at Manatee High School.

To date, over 4,000 high school students have participated in this free program. The event features a live performance from a blues musician and a Q&A with the students. It’s an interactive look into what it takes to be a professional and touring musician. 

Connect Bradenton is a proud sponsor of the Bradenton Blues Festival and we were honored to host their Blues Sponsorship event on October 24th. Wade will be repping Connect at the blues fest this Saturday as he rides the musical acts back and forth on a golf cart. 

Realize Bradenton wouldn’t be possible without its incredible volunteers who give their time and energy into this organization. If you’d like to volunteer, go to realizebradenton.com/volunteer to complete the application. 

Riverwalk Expansion East Project

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