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Dawn and On Music Festival Returns

After being one of many canceled events in 2020, the Dawn and On Music Festival will return this year.

The all-day celebration of music, family, and fun will be held on Saturday, July 10 from noon until midnight at Schwiebert Riverfront Park, in downtown Rock Island. It had to be canceled due to COVID last year, and there were serious questions whether it would be a go this summer, according to event co-director Mike Mathews.

“We got off to a very late start just because the artists didn't know what was going to happen. They weren't necessarily making any commitments. So, normally we like to begin the process around the first of the year; we didn't really get started in earnest until about early May, so we rushed it through pretty quickly.”

The Way Down Wanderers
Way Down Wanderers
The Way Down Wanderers

Aside from the host band, The Dawn, the festival usually features a different lineup of acts every year.

“The interesting thing about it was, everyone was available because no one had dates booked at that time. Literally, once the CDC opened us back up, all these plans started coming into play fairly quickly. So most every band we reached out to was available. The problem was routing, ‘cause no one was touring.”

“There were a handful of bands that we absolutely loved, but they had to fly in from the West Coast -- which for just a one-off show, unfortunately that costs a lot more to bring in bands. So we had to get a little creative in terms of our lineup. And fortunately, we were happy with how it turned out.”

The day-long festival, in its sixth year, will be headlined by Colorado jam rockers Magic Beans and Illinois bluegrass favorites The Way Down Wanderers, who travel the country. Additionally, the festival will feature Wisconsin folk rockers Them Coulee Boys, Midwest group Middle Western featuring David Zollo and William Elliot Whitmore, along with Peoria bluegrass staples Still Shine.

In addition to The Dawn, local acts Heads In Motion (A Talking Heads Tribute), The Textures, and The Channel Cats will round out the bill.

Founded in 2015, Dawn and On is a homegrown music festival featuring the area’s best local and regional talent. Its Facebook page says, “From rock to jam to bluegrass, you’ll find all of our bands highly danceable and indescribably fun. Our goal is to bring all the magic of the multi-day music festival and condense into one highly affordable day right in your own backyard.”

For 15 years, the western Illinois roots rock and jam band The Dawn has been
spreading their love of cutting-edge improvisational rock throughout the Midwest, according to their bio.

In addition to live music, Dawn and On brings in some of the area’s most talented arts and craft vendors, a variety of delicious food and snacks, premium craft beer and a few surprises along the way. It’s averaged around 1,000-1,500 in attendance each year – the first four summers held at Len Brown’s North Shore Inn in Moline. 2019 was the first time it was held at Schwiebert Park in Rock Island.

Mathews says this year’s event features the most sponsors ever, thanks to The Dawn frontman Sean Ryan.

“This is our biggest group of sponsors yet, and we brought on several new sponsors. There was a lot of excitement just to have live music back in the Quad- Cities. Sean Ryan, he approached most of the sponsors that we have and the response was very positive. A lot of people were excited, because a lot of these places, they haven't had any events to sponsor for a while. So in a lot of cases, we were the first ones to approach them with summer events.”

Two of the new sponsors this year are The Echo music website, backed by the River Music Experience, and American Bank & Trust. And Mathews says some of the sponsors – like Moline’s River Roots Garden Supply – will have booths at the festival.

Each year, Dawn and On chooses a local charity to donate ticket proceeds to, and
this year’s is the Rock Island YWCA. A portion of every ticket sold will be donated to the YWCA. Mathews says in 2019, Family Resources was the beneficiary, and it received about $2,500. The first year, it was the Child Abuse Council.

Dawn and On will feature a variety of hot and cold food options available for purchase on site. A wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will also be for sale, including a variety of draft beer from Bent River Brewing Company.
Tickets are $20 at the gate and at select pre-sale locations. Children 12 and under are free. For more information on the event, visit http://dawnandon.com/.

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.