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Mississippi Valley Blues Society Cancels Blues Fest

Since March, the Quad-Cities has been singing the quarantine blues. And due to the dissonant chords of Covid-19, that beloved music will be silenced later this year, as the 35th-anniversary of the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is canceled.

Though it initially pushed back the fest from the July 4th weekend, to Sept. 18-19, the Mississippi Valley Blues Society board decided “that it is in the best interest of our fans, artists and vendors to cancel a live Festival until the ongoing pandemic is far behind us,” president Bob Clevenstine posted on mvbs.org.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society Cancels Blues FestThe potential for a second coronavirus wave or peak later this year “is very real, and would render our 35th Anniversary Fest a non-event if large group gatherings remain discouraged through late summer into fall,” the site says.

“We considered options for live delivery including a single day event, but the logistics and costs (outside of performer fees) are the same as a two-day event.  In addition, our long distance-traveling fans are less likely to invest the travel dollars for a single day event, and convincing vendors to set up for a single day would be a challenge.”

“Your Blues Society puts your safety and well-being, and that of our artists, ahead of tradition and we would prefer to see all of you next year, healthy and happy at the end of this long coronavirus tunnel,” Clevenstine wrote.

The all-volunteer MVBS is redoing its website and plans to “come out with the capacity to live-stream our artists, present classic workshop videos, artist interviews, and make historic Fest performances available to our members and donors,” he wrote. “While we are truly disappointed in cancelling a live Fest this year, we are excited about improving our web presence and moving your Blues Society into the 21st century.”

Since MVBS launched the fest in 1985, it is been a treacherous, bumpy road of fits and starts, and relocations on both sides of the Big Muddy.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society Cancels Blues FestMembers of the society, a volunteer nonprofit group, were told last May that because of record-breaking flooding, LeClaire Park in Davenport would not be an option for the 2019 Blues Festival, which was 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 in East Moline (which ended up being picked).

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. This is not the first year Blues has been canceled.

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.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society Cancels Blues Fest

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
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