The Young at Heart Festival, now in its 43rd year, will kick off next Friday, May 23, and runs through Monday, May 26.
"Our Young at Heart Idol takes place on Saturday," Johnson said. "It’s a lot of fun. It’s based on applause, so the more people you bring the better. We always have a good turnout for that."
The festival also draws a variety of professional musical acts, and this year’s roster is headlined by country music star Phil Vassar. Other talent in the lineup includes White Saddle Band, Back Country Roads, Jim Gill, Three Good Men, Infinity, Redline 7000, Clutch Cargo and Heartless, to name a few.
It seems only right that a Heart cover band called Heartless should be playing at the Young at Heart Festival.
Heartless was formed in 2008 by lead vocalist Lynn Lupo, who has loved Heart’s music since the release of "Dreamboat Annie," and keyboardist/manager Bob Roberts.
Heartless has toured throughout the Midwest, but this is the first time the band will play in the greater Rockford area.
Lupo, originally from Cudahy near Milwaukee, feels that Heart has always featured a little of everything in terms of style in their music, and their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year was a long time coming.
"They bring an acoustic sound, a heavier rock ’n’ roll type of sound and they’ve always kind of done it their way," Lupo said. "Whether it was the ’70s or ’80s I think the reason they stayed around was that they always made the music their own."
Heartless will take the stage at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 25, and it has a full set of Heart songs in its play list, but also a few from other bands like The Who. If you ask Lupo what her favorite song to play live is, it’s interesting because it’s actually a cover of a cover.
"I do actually have a favorite to play -- oddly enough it’s not one of their own," Lupo said. "Over the years, Heart has always performed music from other artists, Led Zeppelin in particular, and we include in our set the Heart version of "Stairway to Heaven" that they performed at the Kennedy Center a couple years ago. My favorite changes over time but that’s my favorite right now."
Getting your button
As returning guests know, the festival has buttons available for $9 at the gate or $7 in advance that festivalgoers can use as a pass for the duration of the festival. The Young at Heart Festival has used this method since the beginning, and Johnson says that all 43 buttons from over the years are on display at the chamber offices. What some residents might not know is that the designs are made by local students at Harlem High School.
"The buttons that we have are designed by students in Harlem High School. The art teachers there help us put that together," Johnson said. "They run a contest and the winning student gets $100 for their button design."
Johnson describes this year’s winning button as a beautiful blue, with a large heart and whimsical lettering. Harlem High School Art Department head Barb Kurilla has been heading up the button design project for the last 12 years.
"The kids get really excited about it, mostly because it’s fun, but also because they know that if they win they get $100," Kurilla said. "This year’s winner was a senior, Liz Schutt, and it’s great for her because she is actually planning to go on in art and make a career out of it. It’s extra special for her because she’s going to use it as part of her portfolio and it’s a real project, not just something for school."
Kurilla says the school’s art department picks the top five button designs out of the submissions and sends those on to the chamber’s board, which makes the final decision. From there the design is sent to Harry’s Buttons, which is a microenterprise within Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago. Johnson said that they usually produce around 12,000 buttons for the festival, so by buying a button, not only do you support your local chamber, you put some budding artists into competition.
In addition to the normal fare at the festival, there will be a parade on Saturday morning and fireworks Saturday night. For a full list of details visit the Young at Heart Festival website.