For one summer day each year, one Iowa community becomes the blues capital of the Midwest during the North Liberty Blues & BBQ festival. And admission is free.

It’s more than blues. And it’s more than a barbecue. It’s a family-friendly event that in 2018 drew a crowd of more than 17,000 participants.

This year, on July 13, you’ll want to load up the family and/or friends and head to Centennial Park on North Liberty’s west side for a day of finger-snapping, finger-licking fun.

Turkey Trot

As part of Thanksgiving in July, a communitywide food drive, the North Liberty Community Pantry Turkey Trot is scheduled each year in conjunction with Blues & BBQ. Kicking off the day at 9 am, participants can choose between a 10K or 5K race or have fun in the Family 1-Mile event, all benefit the food pantry.

For more information or to register, visit the registration page.

Gimme Some BBQ

As the runs are winding down, the North Liberty Blues & BBQ kicks into gear with the opening of the Junge Food Alley at 11 a.m. Fifteen vendors will be serving up classic barbecue food such as ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends and more, plus you’ll find ice cream, pizza, kettle corn and more.

Blues & BBQ is an eco-friendly events as all food service containers, napkins and even utensils are compostable, and volunteers will be stationed around the park to help you properly dispose of your waste.

Cold Craft Brews

Some people wouldn’t even think about listening to the blues without wrapping their hands around a cold brew. Blues & BBQ has you covered.

The Craft Beer Tent will feature creations from 16 of Iowa’s best craft breweries, whether you favor hops, stout or wheat or even if you’d rather sip on a cider. Root beer and water also will be available.

The beverage garden is the perfect place to hang out and listen to all that great music. Remember, this is a free, family event, so if you want to enjoy the brew, you’ll need to show an ID to get into the beer tent.

Colossal Kids Activities

Speaking of family, the kids are going to have a spectacular time in The Pit with all the extra activities offered between 10 am and 5 pm. Of course, Centennial Parks amazing Play Structure and Rock Playground are open all day. Other activities, some of which are offered for a limited time, include a petting zoo, pony rides, laser tag, hands-on activities, the MLB Strike Zone, a corn box, face painting, Minute to Win It games and seven inflatables that will let the kids bounce off all that extra energy.

Blues & BBQ FestivalOf Course, There are the Blues

With all of those activities going on, we can’t forget our real purpose here: We want to hear some blues. Rising blues superstar Shemekia Copeland will headline the show, but viewers will want to settle in for a full 10 hours of blues beginning at noon on Centennial Park’s UICCU Stage in Centennial Park. You’ll enjoy the great blues musicians from Iowa and beyond.

Here’s the full lineup for the 2019 North Liberty Blue & BBQ with a taste of information about each artist:

  • Brian Johannesen: 12-1 pm – This Iowa City musician has honed his blue chops in Nashville and Chicago, but the road continues to draw him back to Iowa City. Wanderlust, whiskey, and women are favorite themes in his rocking, original songs.
  • Joe and Vicki Price: 1:30-2:45 pm – Both well-established Iowa musicians, Joe and Vicki Price really found their musical groove after their wedding in 1987. Joe’s ripping guitar riffs have inspired Iowa blues and rock musicians since the 1970s when he opened for the likes of Iris Dement and John Lee Hooker. Vicki’s bold and brassy vocals have been compared to the likes of Loretta Lynn and June Carter, but with a bluesier undertone.
  • Kevin Burt: 3:15-4:45 pm – A 3-category winner in the 2018 International Blues Challenge, Kevin Burt electrifies the crowd each time he takes to the stage. The Iowa native builds a B.B. King-like rapport with audiences, wowing them with his guitar, harmonica and warm vocals.
  • Gloria Hardiman & the Monday Night All-Stars: 5:15-6:45 pm – Alligator Records gospel and blues legend Miss Gloria Hardiman will be joined on stage by regional blues favorites the Monday Night All-Stars. A preacher’s daughter from Mississippi, Miss Hardiman called the world’s blue clubs and stages her home even after settling down in Iowa City. She has performed with the likes of Ray Charles, Etta James, Albert King, and the Staples Sisters.
  • Southern Culture on the Skids: 7:15-8:30 pm – “Americana from the wrong side of the tracks” is how guitarist/singer Rick Miller describes this rock and roll trio from North Carolina. For more than 35 years, Miller, drummer Dave Hartman, and bassist/singer Mary Huff have been delivering what Rolling Stone calls a “hell-raising rock and roll party.”
  • Shemekia Copeland: 9-10:30 pm – A 3-time Grammy nominee, Shemekia Copeland will close out the show with her powerhouse vocals. Copeland takes her audience through a journey from sultry to assertive to roaring. After breaking on the scene with her debut Alligator Records CD in 1998, Copeland has opened for the Rolling Stones; sung with Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Carlos Santana, among many more; and performed in the White House for the Obamas. Rolling Stone has labeled her “a superstar.”


Veridian Credit Union is the presenting sponsor for the festival, and many other local businesses and agencies provide the sponsorship to keep the event brewing each year and allow it to be a free event to draw the community together.

If you’re new to the Iowa City area or even if you’ve lived here your entire life but have never ventured out to the North Liberty Blues & BBQ festival, this would be a great year to give it a look and a listen.

Also, if you’re new to the Iowa City area and are shopping around for a new home, Blank and McCune offers you 40 years of service in the Iowa City real estate market. Contact us about finding your new forever home.