CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local blues fans may have to head a little farther west if they want to catch the Charlie West Blues Fest next year. According to West Virginia Blues Society president Jack Rice, the city of Charleston isn't particularly interested in keeping the event.
Over the phone, Rice laid out a list of complaints over this year's event.
"The city won't work with us," he said. "The city has reduced funding by 90 percent. We went from $25,000 to $2,500. They wouldn't sell our vendors water, which forced us to reduce our event from three days down to two days.
"The Convention and Visitors Bureau didn't honor all of their sponsorship commitments. They were supposed to advertise the festival regionally and nationally. They put ads on two local television stations and two local radio stations."
Rice said the city has treated the festival unfairly compared to other events.
"The city cut the water to the bathrooms," he complained. "They came down and cut down one of our banners -- the banner for one of our major sponsors -- and told us it was blocking the stage. It was in the same place it was last year, but they said if we put it back up, they'd cut our power."
Rod Blackstone, senior assistant to Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, disagreed with almost everything Rice said -- at least in regards to the city.
Blackstone said the city never promised $25,000 and thought that might be an argument Rice had with the city's convention and visitors bureau.
In fact, Blackstone said, the city never promised any money. Instead, he said the city promised to cover the costs of their services, which ran in excess of $20,000.
"The city provided overtime costs for police, paramedics, refuse collectors, street department, electricians and park and recreation workers," he said. "The city of Charleston never promised more than that."
The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau had no comment regarding Rice or the Charlie West Blues Fest. A representative said, "We don't offer comments on events that aren't ours. Charlie West isn't ours."
Rice said negotiations with the city of Huntington are ongoing, but he said they seem very interested in having the blues festival at Harris Riverfront Park.
"We've had one preliminary meeting," he said. "We have another meeting scheduled to talk about logistics, but we've already checked out the date. They're willing to hold it for us, have offered us free water and they're fine with us being a ticketed event."
The blues festival's Facebook page has a post from June 29 stating, "Well, it's now official, the 7th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest will be held in Huntington, WV at Harris Riverfront Park!"