Erika Olsen with the award the festival won for their social media campaign. Photo by Amanda Gresham

Erika Olsen with the award the festival won for their social media campaign. Photo by Amanda Gresham

By Marcy Stamper

The Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival won numerous awards for promotion and for spreading the word about the 2013 festival through social media, often edging out larger events including Seattle’s Bumbershoot and Seafair.

The R&B Festival received a first-place gold medal for its use of social media—primarily Facebook, but also Twitter and YouTube—in the Pacific Northwest Summit Awards presented by Washington Festivals and Events Association last week. R&B promoters got silver awards for their poster and T-shirt, both featuring singer Nikki Hill; and for overall advertising, including radio spots highlighting the musicians. The R&B Festival got bronze awards for photography, its website and for outdoor advertising.

Erika Olsen, the festival volunteer who handles promotions and public relations, was responsible for regular Facebook and Twitter updates leading up to the concerts and throughout the festival weekend, according to Peter Dammann, secretary of the festival’s board of directors. In her posts, Olsen showcased bands who’d be at the festival, as well as other activities festival-goers could pursue while in Winthrop, she said.

This photo of Nikki Hill at last year’s festival  won the Bronze category. Photo by Marilyn Stringer

This photo of Nikki Hill at last year’s festival won the Bronze category. Photo by Marilyn Stringer

Olsen worked with designer Cara Seekell of Granite Graphics in Montana on the poster and website. Photographer Marilyn Stringer, another festival volunteer, shot the winning photo of singer Nikki Hill and her band from behind the stage, showing Hill, an enthusiastic crowd, and the Methow scenery in the background.

The honor for the festival’s use of outdoor advertising recognized the prominent placement of its banner at music festivals in Washington and neighboring states, as well as its year-round presence through signage at the Blues Ranch in Winthrop, said Olsen.

Last year's festival t-shirt.

Last year’s festival t-shirt.

“The T-shirt has been gangbusters. We give it to all the artists, and they send pictures of themselves wearing it at other festivals,” said Olsen. In fact, they only had one T-shirt left to display at the Summit awards ceremony on March 18, but it disappeared from the exhibit table, said Olsen. “Obviously, it was the people’s choice award,” she said.

Winthrop’s R&B festival entered the Summit contest for the first time for the 2012 festival and received awards for advertising, photography and their recycling program. The festival also got the gold award that year for the best community partnership, based primarily on their donations to The Cove food bank and other charitable organizations. In 2013, the festival gave more than $5,800 to The Cove and another $1,500 to the Methow Valley School District music program, along with other, smaller donations in the community.

The festival, now planning its 27th year, became a nonprofit in 2005, and is now run by a volunteer board and all-volunteer staff.

The 2014 festival will feature Charlie Musselwhite, the Royal Southern Brotherhood in their Northwest debut, and Shemekia Copeland, among other groups. It takes place from July 18 to 20. For more information on this summer’s festival, visit www.winthropbluesfestival.org.