JOLIET – In “God’s Mission”? Not quite, but a mission to have a good time draws people to Joliet this weekend as Jake and Elwood get the band together for the first Blues Brothers Con.
It will be held at the Joliet Old Jail this Friday and Saturday, and WGN News Now spoke with Greg Peerbolte, CEO of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, about the festival.
He has been working on the organization of the event for five years. “The Blues Brothers Con was developed around the time our organization, the Joliet Area Historical Museum, took over the old Joliet Jail that was closed and abandoned,” Peerbolte said. “It really grew out of a number of tourists who were doing a corridor of Route 66 in particular, they came from all over the country and around the world asking about the Blues Brothers prison. How do we get in in there how can we do tours?
“In some cases, you might even drive by and see people in costumes and in bluesmobiles outside the complex. So we kind of knew this brand had global appeal so to speak, and we certainly know it’s a big export from Chicago.
So they approached a company that Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi, John’s wife at the time of his death, worked at to collaborate on an idea for fans to celebrate prison and the movie.
Organizers originally wanted to have the film’s 40th anniversary convention in 2020 but had to postpone it due to Covid-19. Peerbolte said they now hope the convention will become an annual event for the town of Joliet.
When Blues Brothers Con kicks off at 2 p.m. Friday, attendees will walk through the same door that “Joliet” Jake walked out to meet his brother, Elwood, at the start of the film.
There will also be a variety of movie-themed experiences at the 16-Acre Jail site for fans. Organizers are recreating an area of Maxwell Street, which will include images and artifacts from the Maxwell Street Foundation as well as films and artists.
Fans will find a Soul Food Cafe, which pays homage to the scene with Aretha Franklin, as well as a few DJs and local artists and artisans.
Peerbolte said they have an amazing blues lineup for Friday and a wonderful lineup of Gospel acts scheduled for Saturday morning as part of a tribute to the film’s Triple Rock Baptist Church stage.
“Just the energy of that Triple Rock scene, even today when you watch it, watching James Brown in action, … you feel like you can go take on the world and do your God mission,” Peerbolte said. “It will be the best two days for Blues Brothers fans you can imagine. All the senses will be engaged. Delicious food, great sellers. Everything you could want in a festival.
On Friday, the event will be anchored by Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, John’s brother, performing as the Blues Brothers with the Sacred Heart Band at 9:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a very spirited performance and again, that special moment that ties everything together…and sees Joliet again,” Peerbolte said. “Historically Joliet as a prison town has been the sticking point and maybe that’s something we don’t want and five years ago when we started this project, the museum and the locals of the city got together and we said you know, this has defined us for so long, let’s knock it down, take it back, fix it and define it.
“So that’s how we do that through art, culture, music, economic development… It’s really a Joliet thing, and if you’re not from Joliet, we would be happy to introduce you to Joliet hospitality via the Blues Brothers.
Blues Brothers Con runs from Friday, August 19 (2 p.m. to 11 p.m.) through Saturday, August 20 (10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.).
Tickets are two-day passes and cost $60 for adults and $20 for children. There are also VIP and Platinum VIP options.
You can find ticket information at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and the Old Joliet Jail.
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