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Blues & BBQ festival returns to North Liberty

BY NINA EARNEST | JULY 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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One day. One party. One cool time.

Blues and BBQ, an annual North Liberty festival, will return this weekend following a rain cancellation during the Memorial Day weekend.

And while the daylong celebration aims to celebrate families with games, food, and fireworks, the organizers also use the festival to serve to celebrate regional artists and a less-commonly heard genre: the blues.

Blues and BBQ will take place noon Saturday at Liberty Centre, Liberty Way, North Liberty.

"We only have one day," said Cheryle Caplinger, a cochairwoman for the event committee. "So we say it's one party, one cool time."

The event is scheduled to feature artists Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, Kevin Burt and the Instigators, Dave Zollo, Regina E. and the Disciples and Ellis Kell.

Caplinger said organizers initially chose to highlight the blues because of its popularity in the state.

"Iowa is known for some things you wouldn't think it would be known for. It has some excellent barbecue," Caplinger said. "It's not necessarily Kansas City barbecue or Chicago barbecue. The same goes for its blues."

Dorr, a musician and radio host, returns to the festival for the third time with the Blue Band. The harmonica player, who hosts the radio show "Blue Avenue," said the genre is popular because the efforts of musicians scattered throughout the state in such areas as central Iowa and Linn County.

"I think it really grows out of those very strong blues societies which go out of their way many times a year to support blues artists and blues-based artists," he said.

And though some may view the blues as a "been there, done that" genre, Dorr said, the misconceptions aren't true.

"They think it's a down-and-out, crying-in-your-beer kind of music," he said. "Which I do not. I don't think that at all."

Burt, a blues artist originally from Waterloo, said he appreciated the organizers' efforts to feature regional musicians.

"They look for artists who are quality, who are in the state doing their thing," Burt said. "And they show support for that. Not all festivals, not all community events, are willing to invest in talent that's here."

Spotlighting blues musicians is a bonus, he said.

"Blues and barbecue just go together," Burt said. "It's like a hand-and-glove kind of thing. For me, it's a given."

Caplinger said locality is one of the main criteria for the planning committee's artist selection.

"We want to have musicians from the area," she said. "The Iowa area is our audience, and that's also the group we have to choose from."

Dorr said the family-friendly and unique event brings its own element to the area and attendees. Yet the music could bring particular fans beyond just the family event.

And for Caplinger, it's important to showcase both.

"It's all for the arts," she said. "Everyone gets to come together and have a community event."


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