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Music & Art to Highlight Weekend in Macomb

Rich Egger
The Al Sears Jazz Festival will include free music in Chandler Park in downtown Macomb on Saturday.

The Al Sears Jazz Festival and the Gazebo Art Festival will team up again this year for a day of music and art in Chandler Park.  The jazz fest will also feature other performances throughout the weekend.

The Al Sears Jazz Festival

The festival is named for a tenor saxophonist who played with Duke Ellington.  But he was much more than a musician.

“He was also really big in the civil rights movement and he also experimented with rock ‘n’ roll.  He was just a successful person,” said Christina Hesse, who pointed out Sears was also a record company executive.  Hesse is studying History Education at Western Illinois University and she did research on Al Sears and the festival that's named after him.

Al Sears

Al Sears was born in Macomb, a fact that Hesse said was overlooked until local artist Jim O’Toole spotted the detail in a jazz encyclopedia he bought for 25-cents at a garage sale. O’Toole shared the information with Bill Maakestad, who was working with the mayor and others to create a new event in Macomb.

“The music tradition in Macomb had always been strong with the music programs at Western Illinois University and the local middle schools and high schools,” said Hesse.  “So it was kind of interesting that this all started because of an encyclopedia entry.”

This is the 14th year for the Al Sears Jazz Festival.  The free music scheduled for Saturday in Chandler Park will be performed at The Outskirts if it rains that day.

Other performances will be held at the Western Illinois Museum, the Macomb Country Club, and the Hainline Theater at WIU.  The Sunday Jazz Brunch will take place at the American Legion Hall.

The full schedule and other details can be found on the Al Sears Jazz Festival website.

The Gazebo Art Festival

Gayle Carper, who serves on the organizing committee for the Gazebo Art Festival, believes the music from Al Sears Jazz Festival enhances the art event

“They’re complementary.  You have this beautiful jazz going. You have a crowd that likes jazz, you have a crowd that likes to see art, and the two events have interchanged with each other,” said Carper.

The Gazebo Art Festival logo

“We get a lot of people who will stay in the park longer to listen to the jazz and wander through the booths.”

19 individual artists will be selling work in Chandler Park, plus the metals and ceramics clubs from Western Illinois University will sell pieces created by students.  Artists are profiled on the Facebook pages for the Gazebo Art Festival and for the West Central Illinois Arts Center.

Carper said jewelry, paintings, photography, and more will be available.  “All of the work that we display and sell is handmade.  We don’t have any commercial products,” she said.

Carper said the festival will also feature live ceramics making demonstrations by artist and educator Natalie Shelly.

The Gazebo Art Festival is scheduled to take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday in Chandler Park.  It will be held in the West Central Illinois Arts Center on the courthouse square if it rains.

Carper said the festival is now an affiliate of the WCIAC.  She believes the partnership has increased the festival’s visibility. 

“For the first time in years, we have a home.  We’re not just wanderers in the desert anymore,” said Carper.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.