Saturday, June 9, 4 p.m.
District of Rock Island IL
An eagerly awaited summertime festival returns to the District of Rock Island on June 9, 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 mong Gumbo Ya Ya's outdoor novelties are psychics, abirbrush-tattoo artists, showgirls in feather boas, and flamboyant street performers, with strands of intertwined, multi-hued beads – purple representing justice, green representating faith, gold representing power – visible as far as the eye can see.
And, 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 famed guitarist, drummer, and singer/songwriter Cedric Burnside. A four-time Blues Music Award winner, Burnside's album Descendants of Hill Country was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album, and the musician's career of 25-plus years has found him collaborating with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Widespread Panic.
At 7:45 p.m., Gumbo Ya Ya welcomes the sizzling yet family-friendly talents of Zydeco Voodoo, who play a blend of traditional New Orleans music and popular rock and blues songs adapted to the zydeco style, with kids in the crowd frequently invited on-stage to play percussion instruments and dance along with the band. Finally, at 10:15 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 Aremstrong 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 2018 Gumbo Ya Ya on June 9 is $9 with the event's gates opening at 4 p.m., and more information is available by visiting DowntownRockIsland.org/events/gumbo-ya-ya.