Advertisement

North Liberty’s Blues and BBQ Makes Summer Official


Liberty Centre Blues and BBQ Festival | Sunday, May 29 | 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. | FREE
more info at
http://www.northlibertyiowa.org/bluesandbbq/

When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, summer’s actual arrival seldom coincided with what we considered the official beginning of summer—Memorial Day weekend.

Standing at the flower cart I manned during high school summers at the corner of Randolph and Michigan I’d watch the bank clock on the corner with a resentful eye—and bluish toes, as the temperature never even broke the 60 degree barrier—sometimes well into June.

This didn’t stop me from wearing shorts and sandals, though. Since it was past Memorial Day, summer had begun in my eyes, and if summer didn’t get the message, well, that wasn’t my problem.

In Chicago, the truest sign that summer had arrived was the delicious aroma of grilled meat wafting through the air all along the lakefront as the thousands of folks who had been held hostage by winter for entirely too long gathered to grill up some barbecue with their friends and family and offer up thanks for having made it through another long and gloomy winter.

Along with the warm laughs and cold beers that usually accompanied these feasts, there was almost always someone strumming on a blues guitar or playing some blues music on a portable radio or cassette player.

Blues and barbecue are as intertwined to me as coffee and cigarettes and, like them, each one only makes the other one better.

Closer to home, just across I-80 in North Liberty, the Liberty Centre Blues & BBQ Festival has been celebrating summer’s arrival in just the same way for five years now, bringing people together who’ve also been cooped up indoors too long to enjoy each other’s company along with some delicious lip-smacking barbecue enjoyed while listening to some toe-tapping and butt-shaking blues musicians.

Started in 2006 as a way for North Liberty to showcase its new Liberty Centre Park and give the citizens of that community a chance to come out and meet one another while enjoying this new space, the fest had only around a thousand attendees at its inaugural event.

It’s grown in size with each passing year as word spread about what an amazing, family-friendly and inexpensive local Memorial Day event it is, with over six thousand people attending last year.

Sponsored by local businesses, community organizations and individual private donations, the festival has grown beyond a mere showcase for the area’s best bluesmen and barbecue masters to become a truly family-oriented event featuring face-painting, a tug of war, a dunk tank, a bouncy-house and a slew of other kid-friendly games and activities sure to make the day a fun one for anyone bringing children, their own or otherwise.

The most popular activity for children has consistently been the “Fishing for Kids” activity, where children in attendance are given rods and reels from the North Liberty Recreation Department and are allowed to fish for crappies and bluegills in the stocked pond there on the park grounds.

SIGN UP TODAY

Subscribe for daily news updates from Little Village

SUBSCRIBE

For the grown-ups, in addition to the Blues and barbecue, there is a beer garden usually
featuring local micro-brews as well as a chance to get to talk with your friends and neighbors about something other than how lousy the weather has been. You may or may not recognize some of them without the parkas, scarves and boots that had been their standard attire the last time you saw them but what better environment could there be for seeing them again—or maybe even meeting some folks you’ve never met before—than with a beer in one hand and some ribs in the other while swaying to some meaty blues guitar riffs?

Past musical acts have included several members of the Iowa Blues Hall of fame and this year’s line-up promises to be the best one yet with a once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Ernie Peniston and Dave Zollo playing under the name “Temporary Blues,” as well as the Avey Brothers, Kevin “BF” Burt and the Instigators and Bob Dorr and the Blue Band, celebrating their thirtieth anniversary as one of Iowa’s most beloved blues acts.

The barbecue part of this Blues & BBQ event has gotten bigger and better—and more serious—each year as well, with a panel of experienced-pallet judges now assembled to judge the entries provided by the participants. Based on the judging rules and regulations established in some of the most renowned barbecue towns in America, like Chicago, Kansas City and Dallas, the quality of barbecue provided at the event has gotten only better with each passing year as the grill men and women jockey for the coveted first place award.

While it may be hard to believe that summer and all its wonders are just around the corner—especially with the completely uncalled for snowfall that came days after our temperatures spiked up into the 80s just a few weeks ago—by the time you’re reading this that kind of capricious and vindictive weather should be but a distant memory as we focus on the many great outdoor events that make the Iowa City area such a fantastic place to be, all summer long.

Iowa City’s Summer of the Arts programming—Arts Fest, Jazz Fest, Friday and Saturday Night Concert Series—will be kicking off in just over a month, but why wait for that when just a short trip to North Liberty can give you a head start on celebrating the season this Memorial Day Weekend?

The festival’s motto is “One Day. One Party. One Cool Time” and from everything I’ve heard about it from people who’ve gone in years past I know for certain I’ll be there—wearing a bib, covered in barbecue sauce, dancing to the blues and grinning from ear to ear, just like back home.


Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

Advertisement

New Year, New Career!

Free Help Desk & Systems Admin Education available to Iowans impacted by COVID.

Sign Up Today

Advertisement

Apply for a seat on the Human Rights Commission

Apply Today

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.

Advertisement

Randy's Flooring is a local, employee-owned retailed that has been part of the Corridor for over 40 years, delivering quality and value through the largest selection of carpet, tile, hardwood, window treatments, and specialty products supported by the knowledgeable staff and in-house flooring designers who can help transform residential and commercial spaces.

 
Get Started