Dandelion Wine Festival ages well
Jeff Justman | Photo by Lilli Kuzma
The 13th Annual
Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival
Bowen Park in Waukegan, located on Sheridan Road just north of Greenwood
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 2
Free admission; free parking at festival site
For more information: www.waukeganparks.org, www.jackbennycenter.org, or (847) 360-4740
Celebrating the sweetness of summer, as if it’s packed into one day like sweet wine in bottle that’s uncorked and poured out for all to enjoy, the Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival takes place June 2 at Bowen Park in Waukegan.
The name comes from Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine, (published in 1957), set in the fictional town of “Green Town,” but most certainly based on Waukegan and inspired by Bradbury’s childhood there.
Ray Bradbury, who will be 92 this year, is unable to attend the event, but welcomed his designation as Honorary Chairman.
Much to do
Though there’s no actual wine involved, the festival offers wide-ranging pleasures, including music, fine arts and crafts, nature tours, historical exhibits inside the Waukegan Historical Museum, plus a children’s stage in the Bowen Park Playground Amphitheatre.
This year’s festival theme, “Sounds of Summer!” brings all ages together with a “Cricket Clacker” Community Art Project, that lets everyone design and create a clacker with a cricket-like sound meant to recall the “sounds of summer” of the Bradbury novel.
Jeff Justman, a festival performer and emcee who lives in Mundelein, now in his sixth year as a member of the planning committee, noted the genesis of the event:
“The idea for this actually stems from a guy named Jim Harrington, a Waukegan resident. He was an artist and envisioned the whole thing, wanted to have an inter-active cultural festival in Waukegan. He staged the event but passed away right afterward. The Waukegan Park District took it over at that point to keep it going.”
In a 2000 interview, the late Harrington explained: “We want to share with kids the difference between fine art and craft. Fine art is oriented toward creativity. Our vision is to get the students to interact with the professional artists.”
Justman’s own involvement began as a performer some years back, and he became more and more involved as he saw the need to develop the event.
“I had some ideas on how I could help this festival out, using my experience organizing the Acoustic Music Jam in Lake County, and my experience with the Lake County Folk Club,” he said, “so I concentrated on organizational things like the location of the main stage, and promotions, helping to bring acts in, etc.”
Known in music circles as “Jazzman Jeff Justman,” he’s been playing guitar since childhood, and excels at innovative arrangements of well-known songs. He will perform a range of material on mostly electric guitar, from popular songs to instrumentals and originals.
“I’m also going to bring some Woody Guthrie songs,” noted Justman. “I do a rocked up version of (Guthrie’s) ‘Pastures of Plenty,’ and am also doing ‘California Stars,’ a song found in Woody Guthrie’s notebook that Jeff Tweedy of Wilco put music to. Definitely some Beatles jazz, some Dylan.”
Justman raves about the festival’s Bowen Park setting.
“It’s not on the lakefront, but very close to it. The park is absolutely gorgeous, a real city park,” he said. “And in the middle of the park is the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, which has a beautiful little theatre inside, the Schornick Theatre Stage, where an improv workshp will be held, and live music acts will perform, mostly folk, acoustic, jazz saxophone and piano. So the festival is outdoors and indoors. The stage outside will be more rock-oriented and highlighted by the drum circle.”
Also among the attractions on the outdoor Pavilion Stage will be the Rockin’ Aces, Crooked Moon, and a community drum circle at various times throughout the day. Headliners include Diamana Diya, an energetic percussion ensemble performing traditional rhythms and songs from Guinea, West Africa, and special guests Nansady Keita (who played on the soundtrack for the Warner Bros. movie “Blood Diamond”) and Fode Camara with Helen Bond and Amy Lusk.
Justman said the festival continues to thrive. “This makes the community a better place, brings people together. Culture helps people involve themselves in the community, raises its standards.”