Saturday, June 8, 4 p.m.
The District of Rock Island IL
A hotly anticipated summertime festival returns to the District of Rock Island on June 8, as this year's celebration of Cajun culture Gumbo Ya Ya treats guests to a veritable Mardi Gras complete with a quartet of electrifying concerts, a French Quarter Marketplace, Cajun cooking, street performers, and, as always, more than 20,000 strands of Mardi Gras beads.
Beginning with its 1993 origin as the District's second signature festival (following on the heels of the previous summer's Ya Maka My Weekend), Rock Island's Gumbo Ya Ya provides an annual excursion to New Orleans with the benefit of patrons never having to leave the Quad Cities. Street vendors will have Cajun food for purchase while the French Quarter Marketplace will offer themed goods including Mardi Gras masks, specialty beads, clothing, accessories, jewelry, and more. Featured among Gumbo Ya Ya's outdoor novelties are psychics, airbrush-tattoo artists, showgirls in feather boas, and flamboyant street performers. New to this year's Gumbo Ya Ya will be horse-and-carriage rides through the District and outdoor dueling pianos in the Voodoo Lounge at 5:15 and 8:45 p.m., and as is festival tradition, more than 22,000 multi-hued beads – purple representing justice, green representing faith, gold representing power – will be visible as far as the eye can see.
Plus, of course, Gumbo Ya Ya will present concert performances by thrilling Cajun, jazz, and zydeco musicians all performing on the District's outdoor mainstage. The local artists of the Backwater Bayou Band kick the proceedings off at 4:30 p.m., while 6:30 p.m. brings with it a set by festival favorites Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe, with Louisiana native Dikki Du backed by his exhilarating krewe of Kevin Carrier on bass, Neil Carrier on washboard, Levi Rivers on guitar, and Brian Roshon on drums.
At 9 p.m., Gumbo Ya Ya welcomes the sizzling Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal, a five-piece soul, funk, and R&B band based out of Lincoln, Nebraska. Led by Hoyer on keyboards/vocals, the ensemble boasts Benjamin Kushner on guitar, Blake DeForest on Trumpet, Larell Ware on drums, and Mike Keeling on bass, and enjoyed headlining European tours in 2017 and 2018. Finally, at 10:45 p.m., Gumbo Ya Ya concludes with a late-night set by the horn and percussion talents of the Jack Brass Band. Founded in the Twin Cities in 1999, the groups' repertoire ranges from New Orleans jazz from the Louie Armstrong era to Mardi Gras street anthems, and prompted the legendary Wynton Marsalis to state, “If you like your gumbo spicy and your music hot, check out the Jack Brass Band.”
Admission to the 2019 Gumbo Ya Ya on June 8 is $5-10 with the event's gates opening at 4 p.m., and more information is available by visiting DowntownRockIsland.org/event/gumbo-ya-ya-2019.