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New socially distanced venue to host Waterfront Blues Festival, other events in Portland this summer

A Portland events company is poised to turn a former shipyard into a 7-acre outdoor event venue for the summer, with COVID-19 protocols in place.

PORTLAND, Oregon — The Waterfront Blues Festival is a go this summer after it was canceled last year because of the pandemic. The annual festival will have a new home for 2021 and allow much smaller crowds. 

It will be a highlight of a whole series of events planned for The Lot at Zidell Yards, a former shipyard being converted into an outdoor venue on Portland's south waterfront between the Tilikum Crossing and Ross Island bridges. 

Fuller Events of Portland has big plans for the space, which is not far from Waterfront Park where the blues fest is usually held.

"Our project is to bring back events safely," said Christina Fuller of Fuller Events. "We're building out a socially distant outdoor performance venue knowing that events look different."

Renderings of the venue show what "different" looks like: pods of space, set apart for small groups to gather.

“So you'll get the experience of sharing the moment of the live music or the charity auction or the festival, but still within appropriate spacing and the comfort of being around people that you choose to be around,” said Fuller.

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Fuller and her husband Tyler are no strangers to Portland's biggest events.

From the Waterfront Blues Festival to the Rose Festival, Hood to Coast and more, they've been involved in making big events go off smoothly. Their goal for 2021 is get back some of what the pandemic took away from event goers and those who work in the industry.

Their plan for The Lot at Zidell Yards includes food service, a stage for performers and an enormous 16-by-30-foot LED screen to highlight lives shows or show movies.

Starting in May with a 300-person limit on the property, they plan to have variety of socially distant events on the site. The "upriver" Waterfront Blues Festival is set for July 2-5 and benefits Meals on Wheels People.

“And so we really encourage people to patronize the blues festival not only because it's going to be a wonderful event with some terrific musicians, but also that ticket price helps to feed older adults in our community as well," said Meals on Wheels spokesperson Julie Piper Finley.

Fuller says it will be a highlight of a season of fun, safe events that will bring back the community.  

RELATED: Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival canceled due to coronavirus pandemic

“And we'll feature local, regional, national artists that folks have known to associate with the blues festival, and we're just over the moon that we still have a waterfront place just a little bit up the river.”

Other events planned for the venue include Portland Pride, a series of film and music hosted in partnership with Hollywood Theatre and more live music.