News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet gets the blues and likes it

4th Blues Festival a homecoming for Laurie Morvan

Bill Grady performs at the Joliet Blues Festival at Bicentennial Park. Aug 13, 2022.

Dave Estep was at the Slippery Noodle Inn, notable blues bar in Indianapolis, on Friday and at the Blues Festival in Joliet on Saturday.

“Music brought me out here,” Estep, a New Lenox resident who describes himself as a music fan and blues fan, said as he waited for the first act to start. “I go to a lot of music venues.”

It was Estep’s first visit to the Joliet Blues Festival, and he’s the kind of person that organizers of the event say they are attracting – Blues devotees looking for a place to hear their music or play their music.

Doug Rockwell and Sandy Fonsecal enjoy the performances at the Joliet Blues Festival at Bicentennial Park.  Aug 13, 2022.

It was the fourth Blues Festival at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, and it’s an event that’s getting growing attention, said Karl Maurer, a blues musician who books bands for the show.

“When we started out, we had a couple of hundred people show up,” Maurer said. “We’re expecting over a thousand people today.”

More than 1,200 came out, which was the biggest attendance yet for Joliet Blues Festival, an outdoor event in the park along the Des Plaines River.

“I think this is great,” said Kenneth Moore of Joliet, who grew up in Chicago passing by clubs like the Checkerboard Lounge that he was too young to enter at the time. “I’m going to have a good time. I’m a blues fan – always have been.”

Kenneth Moore of Joliet (left) and Dave Estep of New Lenox relax before the first act at the Joliet Blues Festival on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

Performers at the Joliet Blues Festival included the Laurie Morvan Band, the headline act with a national following and local roots.

Laurie Morvan now lives in Long Beach, California, but was delighted to be back home for her performance.

“I’m super excited about this event,” Morvan said shortly after she arrived amid greetings from family and friends. “It’s like a big homecoming for me. I grew up in New Lennox, Joliet and Plainfield.”

Laurie Morvan (left), a native of the Joliet area who now lives in California, greets family and friends after arriving with her Laurie Movan Band on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 at the Joliet Blues Festival in Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park.

She graduated from Plainfield Central High School.

Other performers at Blues Festival were the Cash Box Kings, Nigel Mack and the Blues Attack, and Bill Grady – all based out of Chicago but play nationally or throughout the Midwest.

Maurer, whose band The Hepcats, has played at the Joliet event, said he tries to book bands and performers that typically don’t play in Joliet. The job is getting easier because Joliet Blues Festival is getting noticed, he said.

Karl Maurer (left) and John Simpson, vice president of Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park board enjoy the Joliet Blues Festival at Bicentennial Park. Aug 13, 2022.

“People want to play here,” Maurer said.

Since Blues Festival is just for one night and features four bands, Maurer said it’s important to bring performers to Joliet who have not been heard in the city before.

Most attendees are local, but Blues Festival does attract a wider audience, said Bicentennial Park Executive Director Lori Carmine.

“We actually get a lot of people from outside the region,” Carmine said. “We get people from out of state, a couple from out of the country.”

Visitors from other countries typically make the Blues Festival part of a Route 66 tour, she said.

Terry Lucas as Elwood Blues at the Joliet Blues Festival at Bicentennial Park.  Aug 13, 2022.

The Old Joliet Prison is another stop on the Route 66 tour, and Blues Festival this year was held less than a week ahead of an appearance by Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi at the prison on Friday for Blues Brother Con, a two day event that will include a showing of “The Blues Brothers” on Saturday.

The Joliet Blues Festival, Carmine said, is a “a nice, chilled environment” in which people tend to come and go throughout the 7-hour event, bringing their own blankets and chairs.

“You can sit and relax and enjoy yourself,” said Norveea Cleark of Joliet. “You get to meet a lot of people.”

The crowd enjoys the performances at the Joliet Blues Festival at Bicentennial Park. Aug 13, 2022.

Steve and Sherry Kessler of Joliet came last year, and it was the first event they attended at Bicentennial Park.

“We were just going to stay for a couple of bands,” Steve Kessler said. “We stayed for the whole thing.”

The music brought them back, and, Sherry Kessler said, “It’s beautiful down here.”