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Sights, sounds and aromas permeate North Liberty Blues & BBQ festival

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NORTH LIBERTY — Despite its name, Blues & BBQ was anything but blue.

In its 10th year, the festival attracted thousands to Centennial Park in North Liberty where attendees enjoyed blues music, barbecue, kids activities and craft beer form Iowa breweries starting at noon and running late into the evening.

Marilyn Kempnich and Skip Kempnich of Iowa City attended the event for their first time — they were impressed. The couple regularly travels to hear blues music, even going to Clarksdale, Mississippi, one of the nation’s historical blues cities.

“I don’t know if there is any music more American than blues,” Skip said.

They said Blues & BBQ was high up on their list of blues events they’ve attended.

“We love the small town feel,” said Marilyn.

Of course they tried the barbecue too — 13 vendors were on-site filling the air with an aroma of all the fresh-off-grill meats. They ate as they watched one of their favorite performers, Kevin BF Burt and the Instigators, on the stage.

One couple, Tanis Mueller and Mike Mueller, came out just to see Kevin BF Burt and the Instigators, who they’d first heard at their daughter’s wedding.

“I like his voice — we just came for the music,” Tanis said, and Mike added that it’s a great to just be out.

Kids enjoyed inflatables, an on-site police car and firetruck they could check out, crafts and a petting zoo.

“She could’ve done just that (the petting zoo) and been fine. I got a funnel cake that was supposed to be for her, but look who’s eating it,” laughed Kathy Lahmon of Tipton, talking about her 2-year-old granddaughter.

Adults enjoyed the Iowa Craft Beer tent on-site serving 17 different beers from Iowa breweries. Steve Linn, who runs the tent, said the lemon drop shandy from Millstream Brewing Co. in Amana was one of the more popular choices when the tent opened. The brewery made the drink particularly for Blues & BBQ and is set to make it just once more at the Iowa State Fair.

“So many new breweries have opened around here in the last two or three years,” Linn said. “It’s exciting to show them off.”

Hannah Hayes, who recently moved to North Liberty, brought her friend Amy Happ of Center Point to enjoy the day.

“I thought it was just going to be music in the park — I didn’t realize it was going to be this big,” said Hayes.

Both were happy with their sandwich orders from Mosley’s. Hayes got pork and Happ got “The Mosley” which is a chicken sandwich. The meat was tangy and tender with a hint of mustard, Happ said.

Behind the scenes of festivalgoers enjoyment were hundreds of volunteers helping with everything from parking to games.

“We have a huge turnout,” said Ed Berry, one of the event volunteers, adding that the sunny weather was pleasant considering the event got rained on the past two years. “It’s a fantastic family-centered event. The barbecue is great, there’s good music — I’m very impressed.”

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