By Jim Hagerty
Mary’s Place, 602 N. Madison St., Rockford, will host its annual Holiday Extravaganza benefit for the Rock River Valley Pantry Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14. Music begins at 7 p.m., Friday, and 3 p.m., Saturday.
Seventeen local musical acts will donate their time, performing jazz, acoustic, indie rock, rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll. A spoken-word/poetry set is also on the schedule for Friday.
The benefit began during the holidays several years ago when The Blind Robins decided to do a show at Mary’s and donate the proceeds to the Rock River Valley Pantry. The event took off from there, and has been a holiday season tradition ever since.
“(It) had grown so successfully that it seemed logical to try to expand it to two days, just to see what would happen and if enthusiasm would sustain itself over two days, and it definitely has,” organizer Michael Whyte said.
Holiday Extravaganza expanded to two days in 2011.
Admission is $5 at the door with $1 subtracted for every non-perishable food item donated. The pantry has a call for canned fruits, canned vegetables and 100 percent fruit juices. Because many people who utilize the facility are homeless, portable food items like peanut butter are always needed.
In addition to a community need, the quality of music keeps the event a growing downtown musical experience.
“It always proves to be a pretty eclectic mix,” Whyte said. “This year, for the first time, we have The Fresh Hot Fritters and, also for the first time, my friend, Christopher Sims, will be doing a set of original spoken-word pieces. We also have a lot of acts that step up every year: Soap Flossers, Ron Holm, Long-Shot. The enthusiasm all of the artists exhibit for this cause is the part I enjoy most — very, very talented and original people pitching in.”
Whyte’s band, Michael Whyte & The Sunset Movies, will perform at 10 p.m., Saturday.
The Rock River Valley Pantry was founded in 1973 by Rockford Urban Ministries Executive Director Stanley Campbell when he was a young student at Rock Valley College.
In its first year, the pantry provided emergency food services to 1,745 people. Today, it serves more than 70,000. In 2012, enough food for more than 650,000 meals was distributed throughout the area.
Performance lineup is as follows, by day:
• Friday — Side Arm (acoustic rock), 7 p.m.; Between Planes (1950s rock & roll and rockabilly), 8 p.m.; The Luke-Warm Club of Rockford (gypsy jazz), 9 p.m.; Christopher D. Sims (spoken word/poetry), 9:30 p.m.; Fresh Hot Fritters (rockabilly, classic country and honky tonk), 10:30 p.m.; Big Earl & The Falcons (old-time rock & roll), 11 p.m.; and Long-shot (acoustic rock), midnight.
• Saturday — Empty Pockets (acoustic rock and dance), 3 p.m.; Paul Hieser (singer/songwriter), 4 p.m.; Soap Flossers (original folk/acoustic), 5 p.m.; Firmish Skirmish (indie art rock), 6 p.m.; Calico Flamingos (indie rock), 7 p.m.; Jesus Correa (indie rock/electronic), 8 p.m.; Ron Rawhoof (singer/songwriter), 9 p.m.; Michael Whyte & The Sunset Movies (original rock), 10 p.m.; Law and Love (original rock), 11 p.m.; and Tattoo You (Rolling Stones tribute), midnight.
A new charity album featuring 15 songs from 15 Rockford-area musicians has been released. All music has been donated by the artists and all the cover photographs — all by Rockford-area photographers — have been donated. All profits from sale of the album go directly to the Rock River Valley Pantry.
Two of the acts from the CD will participate in the Dec. 13-14 Holiday Extravaganza at Mary’s Place. The disc can be purchased at https://www.createspace.com/2209207.
For more information, contact Mary’s Place at (815) 962-7944.
From the Dec. 11-17, 2013, issue