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'It's a gift to the community': Heights of the Era brings music of Bix Beiderbecke's time to Quad-City Times Bix 7
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'It's a gift to the community': Heights of the Era brings music of Bix Beiderbecke's time to Quad-City Times Bix 7

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Planning committee D'Dree Leibold, left, Gabby Kroeger and Michelle Russell holding a layout map for stage and vendors at the Lindsay Park in the East Village of Davenport. 

Picture it: A giant stage backed up against trees on the north side of Lindsay Park, elevating acts that pour out music styles from a century gone by. The grounds filled with spectators, listening to music, playing games, popping in and out of the Village of East Davenport. A museum erected opposite the stage to encourage people to learn about Bix Beiderbecke, the park, the village, and those who helped put this event on.

Providing a backdrop to this celebration is the Mississippi River, peeking between the trees.

This is the vision organizer Michelle Russell hopes to bring into existence with the Heights of the Era, an event bringing the music of Bix Beiderbecke's time back to the Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race. 

Heights of the Era will run from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. July 24, the day of the Bix 7. It will begin at the racecourse turnaround, and then move at 9:50 a.m. to Lindsay Park, where people can congregate for the rest of the day and into the night. It is free to the public.

"It's a gift to the community after 2020, which was like a year of loss for a lot of people and a year of stress for everybody," Russell said.

To mark one month until the festival, Heights of the Era will hold a pre-event, called Friday Afternoon Club, this Friday at Lindsay Park.

Yoga will begin at 4 p.m., then live bands will perform in the evening. Friday Afternoon Club, like the main Heights of the Era event, is free.

"We're doing [Friday Afternoon Club] as a teaser to what's to come," Russell said.

Previously the Bix race was accompanied by the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, but the two events split. The jazz festival is scheduled for Aug. 5-7. 

To try and bring the music styles of Beiderbecke's time back to the race named after him, Russell said she looked for musicians and bands that played in genres such as Dixieland, jazz and blues. Festival-goers will also hear traditional Irish music, swing, barbershop quartets and a cappella.

Twelve acts from different parts of the U.S. will play over the course of the event. Russell said Queens, N.Y.-based band The Creswell Club actually already knew about Beiderbecke, as there is a festival in Queens around his birthday. 

Heights of the Era will also feature a museum filled with histories of Bix Beiderbecke, the park, the Village of East Davenport, and the events' sponsors. Games such as badminton and croquet will also be available.

People are encouraged to bring their own seating, food and beverages, but can also pay to have them provided. Russell said the event will benefit the nonprofits River Music Experience and WVIK radio station. 

The Bix is often a homecoming, Russell said, and she hopes people use Heights of the Era to come together again after a hard year.

"You go back 100 years and how the flu at that time devastated our world, and from it came the 1920s," Russell said. "This is very similar, and I think people are itching to get out and are really hungry for the connections that we've missed," Russell said. 

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