“Murphy Park fits just about all our needs, as LeClaire Park did,” Ellen Clow, a board member of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, said Monday. “It's still on the river, in a park setting. It has the feel and atmosphere we prefer over a street fest.”
Members of the society, a volunteer nonprofit group, were told on May 21 that because of flooding, LeClaire Park in Davenport would not be an option for the 2019 Blues Festival, which is scheduled for July 5-6. The board looked at two locations on 2nd Street in downtown Davenport, as well as the new park in front of the Hyatt hotel at The Bend.
“A majority of board members wanted to keep it on a grass setting,” Clow said, noting the Blues Fest lineup will stay the same.
The still-under-construction Event Center at the Hyatt will provide the second stage, which will feature entertainment between the main festival acts.
“The part of it we're going to use will be available; it's a beautiful space,” Clow said. “It's got floor-to-ceiling windows facing the park. You have the feel of being in the festival. We won't have to rent a giant tent like we normally do. The Blues Society is excited to be bringing the festival to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River this year.”
LeClaire Park has been the primary home of the Blues Fest since its inception in 1985. In 1994 and 1995, the fest was held in Moline along the Mississippi River where the Western Illinois University campus is today.
Flooding forced the MVBS to move the festival out of LeClaire Park to other spots in Davenport in 1993, 2001, 2008, 2013 and 2014.
The MVBS presented the annual festival around the July 4 weekend every year until 2015, when financial challenges forced the cancellation of the event. It had been scheduled to take place Sept. 5-6, 2015, at LeClaire Park, away from its traditional July dates to avoid the possibility of flooding along the river.
The festival returned July 1-2, 2016, to LeClaire Park.
In 2014, the Blues Fest earned a Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis for Best U.S. Festival. The MVBS endurance in overcoming many years of relocating the festival due to flooding was stated as one of the main reasons for the award.
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“Murphy Park has many of the the same elements that give the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival that decidedly down-home and non-commercial feel to it,” Clow said, noting the festival will continue to feature food vendors and BluesKool for kids and adults.
For Blues Fest, the Hyatt hotel (309-755-6000) has a block of rooms held at a special festival rate for the weekend, Clow said.
Gates will open at 4 p.m. Friday, July 5, and at noon Saturday, July 6. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. No coolers will be allowed.
Tickets at the gate will be $20 on Friday, $30 on Saturday, or $45 for both days. Advance tickets are $15 for Friday, $25 for Saturday, or $35 for both days. Small fees will be added to the price of advance tickets. Children under 14 will be admitted for free.
“There's plenty of parking; that's not a problem at all,” Clow said.
It's also fitting the festival is at the Hyatt, which opened late last year, since general manager Ray Stoddard was the former general manager of the old Lodge in Bettendorf, the longtime host hotel for Blues Fest, Clow noted.
Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said Monday it's too early to tell if the annual Red, White and Boom festival scheduled for July 3 will need to move from Modern Woodmen Park.
“It depends on river levels. We are prepping a Plan B as we always do, but as of now, it's too early to say,” he said.
The Mississippi River crested Sunday at 21.68 feet, high above flood stage, one month after the all-time record crest of 22.7 feet, set May 2. Sunday's crest was the second highest since 1993. The river is expected to reach 19.3 feet by Saturday, June 8.
For a complete lineup for 2019 Blues Fest, visit https://www.mvbs.org/blues-fest.php.
The new park at The Bend also is hosting a new weekly summer concert series. Each Wednesday through Sept. 11, food and drinks will be sold starting at 6 p.m., and free live music will be offered from 7 to 10 p.m.