Back the Vax festival set in Aurora with music, art, food trucks, free vaccines

Confetti cannon to shoot off every time someone gets vaccinated

Every time someone gets a coronavirus vaccine at the mobile clinic, a cannon will shoot off a stream of colorful confetti to mark the occasion.

That’s better than getting a lollipop from the doctor.

Back the Vax, a free outdoor music, food and art festival set for 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 31, at Water Street Square, 65 S. Water St., Aurora, will have VNA Health Care giving the Pfizer and Johnson vaccines.

And yes, every time a shot goes into an arm, the confetti cannon will fire a volley of colorful, shredded paper. The intent is to combine health care with art in a fun, inviting message to encourage people to be vaccinated.

“It’s fun,” said Jenn Byrne Evans, director of public art for the city of Aurora. “We are trying to create a safe space for people to get the vaccine. It’s really fun, and it’s a reason to come out and get some information. And if you’re comfortable getting the shot, it’s available.”

The event was funded by a grant from the Arts Alliance of Illinois to use arts and culture to promote getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Evans said.

Local entertainment promoter Jalen “2Tall” Woodson, CEO of We Vibe 2 Vibe, will bring local hip-hop, soul and rap musicians.

George “Chicano” Gutierrez will bring artists, Spanish-speaking musicians, a display of lowriders and vendors.

Javi Terrazas, longtime ArtBar curator, will curate a collection of local art in a free publication available at the festival, “VaxZine,” to be given free to the first 500 people who attend, Evans said.

“It will have information about the vaccine from the Illinois Department of Public Health, and it has prints made by local artists that encourage getting the vaccine,” Evans said.

The food trucks will feature Jamaican jerk, soul food, barbecue with a smoker, tacos, elotes – Mexican street corn – and ice cream, Evans said.

Also featured will be booths of local organizations, such as the 88s Roller Derby team, Culture Stock, the Illinois Family Association, which brings social workers out on police calls, she said.

The confetti cannon will be situated next to the stage, so every time a person gets a vaccine, it will shoot out confetti over the crowd.

The festival is open to everyone, but its intent is to “make people from the Black and Latino communities feel as comfortable as possible,” Evans said.

“Medical professionals of color (will be) available for vaccine question-and-answer onstage to offer medical information in English and Spanish,” Evans said. “We’re not only hosting vaccines and accurate information from medical staff, we are promoting the arts and culture we have here that is unique and special about our city.”

Water Street Square is located across from Aurora City Hall on Water Street between Downer Place and Benton Street. Parking is available in the lot across Benton Street.

A presentation of Aurora arts will continue with a reopening of a gallery space from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 6, featuring works by artists with ties to Fermilab in Batavia in the David L. Pierce Art and History Center at 20 E. Downer Place. It has been closed since March 2020, Evans said. The artists are sculptor Jim Jenkins of Geneva, Lindsay Olson and Georgia Schwender, longtime visual arts coordinator at Fermilab.

And later in the month on Aug. 28, 15 graffiti artists will do live painting in an Alley Art Fest, so that by October, Aurora will have as many as 34 new public murals.

“The pandemic cost us like everybody else,” Evans said. “But now is an exciting time in Aurora.”