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Music in the streets with Q-C fests


Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

A. Scotty Hayward, playing the marimbula, and Mak Dervo, with guitar and pan flute, entertain at the YaMaka My Weekend kickoff in the District in downtown Rock Island last July. During the summer, there are festivals nearly every weekend in the Quad-Cities area.

If it's music and a party you want, then the Quad-Cities is the place to be. There's everything from jazz and blues to reggae and zydeco,

Each May, the Louie Bellson Jazz Fest takes place, honoring the Moline native who is one of the world's greatest drummers.

Mr. Bellson, the man jazz critic Leonard Feather referred to as ``one of the most phenomenal drummers in history,'' triumphed over 40,000 other drummers to win the Gene Krupa Festival at the age of 17. He has written more than 300 compositions and published more than a dozen books on drums and percussion.

The Bellson Jazz Fest offers free concerts, jazz clinics and a drum contest.

Blues Fest

Some of greatest blues legends have found their way to Davenport's riverfront and the John Deere Technical Center lawn over the years.

The Mississippi Valley Blues Fest, now back on the riverfront, takes its rightful musical place each July. Koko Taylor and Albert Collins are two of the hundreds of blues legends to play the local blues extravaganza.

Food, beverages, all-day music, and workshops highlight the fest.

Bix

Bix Beiderbecke died at 30 but left a huge legacy to the jazz world. For more than 25 years, the Quad-Cities has paid tribute to the Davenport native.

In association with the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society and corporate sponsor Alcoa, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival is held the last weekend of July each year. LeClaire Park, the Col Ballroom and the Davenport Holiday Inn hop with the sounds of jazz.

Entertainers like Bill Allred's Classic Jazz Band, Pat Yankee & Her Gentlemen of Jazz, The New Reformation Dixieland Band, The Black Swan Classic Jazz Band and The New Orleans Connection have jammed at the Bix.

The three-day event also plays host to the Bix 7 race, one of the top road races in the world.

YaMaka My Weekend

If you plan on beating the summer heat, do so with a trip to the cool Caribbean. The District, Rock Island's downtown arts and entertainment area, offers Ya-Maka-My-Weekend/Boonoonoonoos, in June.

Both days feature French-market beach vendors with Caribbean- and American-style food, as well as music native to the Caribbean.

Gumbo Ya Ya

In August, a tasty bit of New Orleans can be found in downtown Rock Island as the Gumbo Ya Ya celebration creates Mardi Gras madness. Cajun and Zydeco bands perform continuously, starting at 5 p.m. Friday and running through the weekend.

Cajun food vendors also sell spicy fare. Craft vendors and street performers, as well as a crawfish-eating contest, round out the event.

Bluegrass

A family tradition draws hundreds of fans, armed with lawn chairs and rhythm, to the annual Bluegrass Festival at the Mercer County Fairgrounds.

The gathering, inspired and hosted by Bill and Eleanor Barnes and their seven children, features the family's ``self-taught'' band, The Bluegrass Redheads.

The event has been a staple for more than a quarter-century and began years ago in a Matherville hall, which it quickly outgrew. Now it draws hundreds of people each day.

-- By John Marx (February 2, 1998)

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