From the blues to the brews to the barbecue – talent will be on display at this weekend’s McHenry Rotary festival.
In its sixth year, the three-day McHenry Rotary Blues, Brews & BBQ festival aims to show off the best in blues music, home brewing and barbecue cooking. With a Homebrew Competition and a newly sanctioned BBQ Cook-Off – along with some of this area’s and Chicago’s most sought-after blues artists – organizers say the festival gains more notoriety every year.
“I think we’ve got a tremendously strong lineup,” said Diana Mark, band lineup chairwoman. “We are really blessed to be this close to Chicago to get all these incredible artists.”
The festival – the Rotary’s largest fundraising event of the year – will be Aug. 18-20 at Petersen Park in McHenry. Tickets cost $10 at the gate. For information, visit www.mrbbb.com
Raising about $150,000 the past five years – mainly from the festival – the Rotary Club has distributed more than $120,000 to local community, vocation and youth service projects. The group also contributes to global needs, with Rotary International on the forefront of eradicating polio and the Rotary Club of McHenry providing shelter boxes to disaster-stricken areas, wheelchairs for people in need and funding to Ima Bridge Africa’s medical missions.
Among this year’s festival bands are John Todd, Rose Hill Revival tribute to the Allman Brothers, Wall of Denial tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, The BluesNiks, Mississippi Heat, Fernando Jones Kids, Johnny Iguana & the Claudettes and Alabaster.
“I tried to mix it up with true blues and blues rock and feature some of our local talent and Chicago talent,” Mark said.
Headlining Aug. 19, Mississippi Heat has had several hits on the blues charts through the years.
The band not only regularly performs in Chicago, but tours year-round throughout the world. With harmonica player Pierre Lacocque, originally from France, as band leader and songwriter, Mississippi Heat has released 11 albums, performing “pure vintage blues” for more than two decades.
“We are a passionate band,” Lacocque said. “We like to say we feel what we do. We love what we do, and it is an ensemble feel to the band. Every part belongs and contributes to the whole … There’s a chemistry. We like each other, but also the music, well-rehearsed music, and we love what we do. People will feel the passion, the inspiration and the warmth of the band.”
Taking the stage Aug. 18, the Allman Brothers Tribute band Rose Hill Revival is comprised of local favorite Kevin Purcell, a repeat performer at the festival. Also expected to draw a following is the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute band Wall of Denial, based in Wonder Lake, Mark said. Greg Easterling from 97.1FM Chicago will emcee Aug. 18-19, while Greg Guy, the son of Buddy Guy, will take over emcee duties Aug. 20.
And that’s just the music. Now sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the festival’s cookoff drew a lot of interest this year, with organizers having to turn away contestants. All 36 slots for the competition were filled, with the chance to win $5,000 worth of prize money. Winners will be entered into national finals.
“You don’t have to be professional, but we’ve got quite a few members and teams that travel, and I would consider them pros,” said Don Tonyan, who co-chairs the event with Donna Schaefer. “We had a tremendous response. We had to turn away some teams that travel from states away. It’s going to give us an avenue to grow and also raise more money.”
The cook-off will be Aug. 20, along with the Homebrew Competition, another popular attraction at the festival.
McHENRY ROTARY BLUES, BREWS & BBQ
WHEN: Aug. 18-20
WHERE: Petersen Park, McHenry
COST & INFO: Outdoor blues and barbecue festival with an inaugural KCBS Sanctioned BBQ Cook-Off, home brew competition and more. Tickets: $10 at the gate. Information: www.mrbbb.com
Following is the band lineup:
5:45 to 7:30 p.m. – John Todd Band
7:45 to 10:45 p.m. – Rose Hill Revival – An Allman Brothers Tribute
4 to 6 p.m. – Wall of Denial – A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. – The BluesNiks
9 to 11 p.m. – Mississippi Heat
Noon to 2 p.m. – Fernando Jones Kids
2:30 to 4:30 p.m. – Johnny Iguana & The Claudettes
5 to 6:45 p.m. – Alabaster