A year after Jim and Michelle Russell presented a huge free music festival on the day and night of the big Bix 7 race last year, The Heights of the Era (THOTE) will return Friday, July 29 to Lindsay Park.

The Heights of the Era music festival will return to Lindsay Park on Friday, July 29, 2022.

THOTE was launched July 24, 2021 — with the Saturday race at 8 a.m., presenting 14 ½ hours of live music in the genres of 1910s – 1920s Dixieland; “O Brother Where Art Thou”-style Bluegrass; Traditional Irish, Barbershop Quartet, and a cappella. The lineup of live music (until 10:30 p.m.) was broadcast on WVIK Quad Cities NPR (90.3 FM), from the race course stages (until 9:30 a.m.) and then Lindsay Park.

A view of Heights of the Era performers at the first festival July 24, 2021, Lindsay Park (photo by Jonathan Turner).

The free July 29, 2022 event also will be live broadcast on WVIK, from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., only at Lindsay Park in the Village of East Davenport.

“One of the main goals of 2021 was to provide a day of carefree nostalgic bliss after a year of loss for many and a year of stress for all,” Michelle Russell (a partner in Davenport-based Russell Construction + Development) said Wednesday.

Michelle Russell at Bix Bistro, Davenport, on July 1, 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Between last year and this year, there also has been “lots of stress everywhere you look,” Russell said. “And we all lose loved ones each and every year. And we all also, God-willing, celebrate births of babies in our families, and birthdays, and weddings, and achievements.

“So, it is my hope that The Heights of the Era evolves from a onetime respite from a year of ‘unprecedented’ hardships, to a time and place where people and families can gather, come together to celebrate and / or grieve once a year,” she said by e-mail.

The free music festival at Lindsay Park, Village of East Davenport, will be Friday, July 29, 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Last year’s mission was to put on a top-notch event that no one had ever seen before, in every aspect; provide a free event for the community, and bring Dixieland music back to the Bix 7 weekend.

The Bix 7 race (which attracts thousands of runners, like Russell) began in 1975 and until 2011, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival were both held on the same weekend. 2011 was the first year the jazz fest was separated into its own weekend, to create more tourism opportunities for the Q-C area (since people come from around the world for the race and jazz), and to honor the anniversary of Bix’s death, Aug. 6, 1931.

The Bix jazz fest this year is Aug. 4-6, 2022 at Rhythm City Casino Event Center in Davenport.

Returning to Ireland

Jim and Michelle were married on July 31, 2008 in Limerick, Ireland (he is Irish) and went back there on their anniversary every year, through 2019. He really wanted to take her back this year for their anniversary, but didn’t want her to be exhausted if they did another Heights of the Era that Saturday before.

The Arconic Jr. Bix is on Friday, July 29, at 6 p.m., the night before the Bix 7 on Saturday, July 30. Jim and Michelle will leave for Ireland on July 30.

A view of performers at last year’s THOTE, July 24, 2021 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Our feelings are that all things Bix – the race, the memorial jazz fest and THOTE – are good things for the community,” Michelle said. “If we work together, they can be unbelievable things for the community.”

“We’re all, in a different way, very overloaded and stressed,” she said of the need to relax and come together. July 29th also is important because it’s her dad’s 80th birthday.

“He is very much looking forward to the party on his birthday, so I have been dreaming up and will make real a serenade to him from the stage, with some family up there to carry the tune,” Michelle said. “Heaven knows I cannot!”

Named for McClellan Heights

“Heights of the Era” was named in part for McClellan Heights, the neighborhood near the Russell house. “A big part of why we were motivated to put this together and bring Bix music back to Bix weekend is make it a wider purpose of a day,” Michelle said last year. “The race is awesome, but it’s one part of the day. What seems to be lacking is, where do you land for the rest of the day?”

A much larger THOTE will return next year – in 2023 – and this is what’s envisioned:

  • Friday afternoon & evening at Lindsay Park — THOTE’s Petit Four (definition: bite-sized cake or confectionery; savory appetizer), similar to the artists this year, on a smaller scale.
  • Saturday morning — THOTE smaller stage at Bix 7 Race Finish Line until 11 a.m., followed by…
  • Saturday day & evening — THOTE main stage at Lindsay Park until 10:30 p.m., including Elite and Division Winner on stage at the start of the evening show.

Heights of the Era is the creation of Jim & Michelle Russell, and is being made possible by them and many generous benefactors and community leaders. The event is being proudly presented by Blackhawk Bank & Trust. People are encouraged to bring their own food, beverages and lawn chairs.

The Creswell Club (which played last year and is returning) is from the same New York City neighborhood in which Bix lived at the time of his death at 28 in 1931 — Sunnyside, Queens.

July 29 schedule

The July 29 music lineup will be:

  • 3-3:45 p.m. — Edgar Crockett Band, Dixieland jazz (Davenport)
  • 4:50-5:20 p.m. — Take Note, barbershop quartet (Chicago)
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m. — The Sweet Tooth Jazz Band, Dixieland (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
  • 6:50-7:50 p.m. — Kligubbin Irish Music All-Stars, Traditional Irish (Chicago)
  • 8:10-9:10 p.m. — Creswell Club, Dixieland (Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y.)
  • 9:30-10:30 p.m. — Matt Tolentino and the Singapore Slingers, Dixieland (Cincinnati, Ohio)

For more information, visit the event website.