EAST MOLINE — This has been a big week for Murphy Park and the new Bend Event Center, as well as related developments in the area.

For the first time in its 34-year history, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival opened in East Moline on Friday. It will continue through tonight (July 6) night. The Murphy Park bandshell hosted the first of its weekly summer concert series Wednesday; the series started May 29 elsewhere at The Bend property.

The new 4,400-square-foot Bend Event Center, which welcomed the public to an open house June 27, will be the site of the BlueSKool during this weekend's Blues Fest.

The new Midwest Ale Works at 537 12th Ave., next to the Rust Belt music venue, and a new QC Mart gas station and convenience store at 3rd Street and 12th Avenue both opened Wednesday.

The craft brewery is selling local and regional beers and will start offering its own brews in August and will be the 13th stop in the new QC Ale Trail.

Part of the Bend Event Center is owned by Bass Street Chop House, 1601 River Drive, Moline, which will open a new restaurant there later this month. The Combine by Bass Street will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

“I'm from East Moline, and this is real exciting,” said Chrissy Boyer, who now lives in Rock Island. She sings with The Candymakers and All Sweat Productions tributes, and she serves as office manager at Davenport-based River Music Experience.

“It's just great,” she said. “I grew up here; I've lived here pretty much my whole life, in East Moline. Seeing all this stuff, it's exciting.”

New concert series

The Candymakers were featured at the first installment of the Murphy Park concert series, which started in May at the nearby Rust Belt, 533 12th Ave., then was presented in the parking lot across from the nine-story Hyatt Place/Hyatt House hotel, which opened in December. On July 3, the concert series was moved to the bandshell, according to Murphy Park events manager Tyler Murphy.

The park is named in honor of his father, Dan Murphy, owner of Great River Property, which developed the Bend. Tyler Murphy has worked for the development company for two years.

They had planned to sell the three-acre park to the city for $1 after getting an exclusive lease to use it. Ultimately, however, developers of The Bend rescinded the offer.

“I figured it would give them some kind of control over what happened down here, but they didn't see it the same way as us, I guess,” Tyler Murphy said.

He has control over maintenance of the property and booking of all events, and he works with the Event Center on weddings and other receptions. He plans to work with East Moline Main Street on co-presenting some events.

“It's all about community,” he said. “We have a lot of great people that work really hard around here. We want to make it cool for everybody. We're open to anything.

"Originally, the park had many more features. I think it's simpler this way. They were trying to be super fancy and it wasn't going to fit the budget. Why don't we just have a nice open area where you can set up just about anything?”

“It's going to generate sales tax for the city,” Murphy said. “We have the entertainment tax, so they'll get some taxes off the ticket sales.”

The East Moline City Council voted to rescind a 2% eatery tax in May after many business owners complained about it, but a 3% amusement tax, which went into effect April 1, remains in place. The city is collecting 3% on gross charges or entrance fees for admission to all entertainment venues. Religious, charitable, educational and nonprofit groups and city-sponsored events are exempt from the amusement tax.

New music festival

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Even before the decision had been made to move Blues Fest to Murphy Park from its traditional location in Davenport's LeClaire Park because of flooding, Murphy Park had been selected as the site of a new festival, Sweatstock, which is slated for Aug. 16-17. It will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic 1969 Woodstock festival in upstate New York.

Coordinated by Alan Sweet and Boyer of All Sweat Productions, it will feature a lineup of 100-plus area musicians re-creating the legendary performances of Woodstock and performing sets of original music.

For three years, Davenport native Sweet, vocalist for The Candymakers, has presented Redstone Room tributes to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder, among others.

Sweatstock will be All Sweat Productions' first outdoor festival, and more than half of the performers have been involved in prior tribute shows, Sweet said. 

The original Woodstock took place Aug. 15–18, 1969, at a farm property in Bethel, N.Y., It featured Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane. The festival attracted 400,000 spectators.

Ringo Starr, Santana with the Doobie Brothers, and John Fogerty will play at a 50th anniversary fest Aug. 16-18 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the original Woodstock site.

“We have extraordinary talent in the Quad-Cities, and Sweatstock will be a great outlet to grow our music community and bring people together over a shared passion," Sweet said.

“When Murphy Park was designed, this is the type of event that we dreamed of offering to the community through our space,” Murphy said.

Valuable event consulting

Sweatstock has been organized in part by Hive Event Consulting, an agency run by Kate Dale, RME director of entertainment, and Jason Gilliland, director of events for Downtown Davenport Partnership.

“Our goal is to take people's ideas and make them bigger,” Dale said. “When they originally started talking about it, (it was going to be) a two-day event indoors. You're not going to have a Woodstock indoors; that doesn't make any sense. I was like, 'Let me talk to my buddy Tyler. He's got this new park.' It's kind of like making those connections."

“We started doing this for fun, since we worked on River Roots so many years together and decided we work well, logistically, with our talent,” Dale said of Hive. “Maybe offer it to other people, so we've got a handful of other festivals we're doing again this year — Camp Euforia, we help out with Blues Fest, Jason's events, and Sweatstock, Alternating Currents.”

“Jason's job, he's got his three events he does for the Downtown Partnership, and for the RME, I'm just booking for the club there, but both of our organizations don't really have the capacity to add more events,” Dale said. “But we really enjoy them. It came from me, really loving the festival setting of stuff.

“When I work a festival, it's like Christmas for me,” she said. “I love being out, running around, with my fanny pack on, taking care of business, seeing something come to fruition that we've worked on all year.”

Camp Euforia is an independent music festival that will be presented south of Iowa City July 18-20. Half of its staff is from the Quad-Cities, and about half a dozen bands performing at the festival are from the area, Dale said.

“For Hive partnering with our festival made it not as scary,” Boyer said of Sweatstock. “We don't know how to make this happen, but they do.”

Depending how the first time goes, Sweet said he may plan a similar outdoor festival in the future not tied to the Woodstock theme. They worked with Ben Schwind at RME to come up with the concept and lineup, which will include Joe Marcinek, The Velies, Rude Punch, Jordan Danielsen, Jason Carl and the Whole Damn Band, Condor and Jaybird, The Dawn and Charlotte Boyer.

The Murphy Park concert series will run through Sept. 11, and nothing is planned yet in the fall. For Sweatstock tickets and additional details, visit http://bit.ly/sweatstock2019.