By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– The weather was again a little questionable, the crowd a little thinner, and the music a little abbreviated, but the fifth annual Liberty Centre Blues & BBQ was still a hit with blues fans, barbecue fanatics and busy families.
Attendance at the July 23 Redux event (rescheduled after storms blew the originally-planned party and its early morning setup to smithereens on May 29) was slow at first, due to– believe it or not– heavy rain that began around 7 a.m. and fell steadily until after 12 p.m.
Blues & BBQ committee co-chair Cheryle Caplinger said people were calling her on the morning of July 23 to see if the Redux was re-done for.
“We had people asking whether it would still happen because they were concerned the skies would open up and let loose,” said Caplinger. “Some of the vendors actually asked to wait and see what would happen with the weather. We were taking things with a bit of caution, just in case, but we went forward with setting up and didn’t put a stop to it just because there may be rain.”
Perseverance won out. The afternoon skies were occasionally cloudy, the weather hot and humid, and the grounds were wet and muddy in spots, but the show did go on.
Iowa Blues Hall of Fame inductee Bob Dorr, backed up by the Blue Band, took the stage a little later than scheduled, but the rain-soaked stage did not dampen the performers’ enthusiasm, and Blue Band followers were not disappointed. First-class performances continued all day from Kevin “BF” Burt and the Instigators, Dave Zollo and the Body Electric, Regina E. and the Disciples, and Quad Cities blues favorite the Ellis Kell Band. Kell and his crew played through the fireworks show, a first-time offering of the event, in honor of its fifth birthday.
The fireworks, done by Mike Cheney of Pyrotechnics of Cedar Rapids, were particularly well-received, said planning committee member Josh Covert.
“The feedback I’ve heard has been that it was an amazing show, and people hope we have him back next year,” said Covert. “Everyone comments on how there was not a delay between fireworks, and there was always something up in the air.”
The first firework was detonated by five-year old Carter Burns of North Liberty, who won the privilege of pushing the button that launched the show for the expectant crowd by entering the raffle drawing held during the day.
Grade A performances were also given by the 13 food vendors who simmered, smoked and seasoned their delicious fare for hungry patrons. In addition to traditional barbecue, vendor booths offered sweet sno-cones, hand-dipped ice cream, burgers, hot dogs and brats, delectable crepes with all sorts of fillings, quesadillas and other south-of-the-border delights. Todd Carr, proprietor and chef of TC Bone’z, put his culinary skills to the test and received the highest ratings from the barbecue judges for his entry’s taste, texture and appearance.
Though attendance was down due to morning showers and steamy afternoon temperatures, Caplinger said the decision to reschedule this year’s Blues & BBQ event was the right one.
“We really endured. We didn’t want to stop the event the first time, and it wasn’t a call we made lightly. We had to consider not only the weather, but the danger there would have been to the crowd and the vendors, when you have six inches of water covering power lines and toilets dumping over,” she said. “Moving forward the second time turned out to be the right thing because we only had a little bit of rain, and by six o’clock things had cleared up and we were able to have great music and an outstanding fireworks show.”