Blank-Fest Concert for Charity Continues Its Mission to Keep the Homeless Warm

If you’re in the New York tri-state area tomorrow and looking for something charitable to do this holiday season, consider attending this year’s Blank-Fest XIII.

The event is essentially a daylong concert featuring sets from more than a dozen bands and performers—all for the admission of a donated blanket per attendee. The warming goods are then brought to local charities that help the homeless, or given directly to the needy on the streets.

This year’s event kicks off Dec. 12 at noon at Bruxelles Restaurant, 173 Main St., Nyack, N.Y., (845) 353-0732.


Rowell (front row, second from left) and other volunteers from the 2006 Blank-Fest event.

Since its official founding in 1997 by New Yorker (and friend) Kenn Rowell, front man of the band The Baghdaddios, Blank-Fest has spawned sister events in nine cities—including Montreal, Toronto and Calgary in Canada; Racine, Wisc.; and Nottingham, England—and has grown from gathering 40 blankets its first year to more than 500 for the New York/New Jersey area last year. The grand tally from all worldwide Blank-Fest events tops 6,000.

“Blank-Fest has been extremely lucky in that we have seen a marked increase in donations, every year but one, in 2001, for the obvious reasons,” says Rowell. “After the horrendous year that most Americans have had—the recession, loss of jobs and dim prospects for the immediate future—we actually expect to get close to last year’s donation mark, if for no other reason than the fact that last year was even worse (economically speaking) and yet people still continued to give! Even if we fall below last year’s mark, I expect the turnout and concern level to be robust, and I know how lucky we are to get the contributions that we get.”

In addition to The Baghdaddios, tomorrow’s line-up of acts includes Bobby Steele, former Misfits guitarist and founder of The Undead, who also are performing; EMI-label alum Patti Rothberg; Young Folk, from the United Kingdom; Stacy Rock; Buckaroo; The Heshers; reggae band Songs of Solomon; and Lach, founder of the Antifolk movement.

When asked what has changed the most about the festival in the past 12 years, Rowell cites the gentrification of New York’s neighborhoods, which he’s seen morph over the years as he’s driven around making deliveries to the less fortunate.

“Places that used to look scary and run down have actually been reborn, so to speak. New York has done a pretty fair job of reinventing itself. Still, there are people out there who need our help. It only makes the challenge of finding them more acute. But believe me, after years of driving around with a car, truck or van filled with blankets, you’ll still always find someone new who needs a hand.”

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