2018 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival kicks off with Ellis Kell tribute

DAVENPORT--Flood waters lapping into LeClaire Park put Blues Fest organizers into a tough spot.

“A week ago, our leadership team was really struggling with what do we do.  Do we try to stay in the park or do we call it and move to second street?” says Rusty Unterzuber, member of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society.

A move downtown would have cost more time and money. Organizers banked on the river to returning to its bank, which it did.

“We've got great access to the park and it's going to be the venue we've always liked to use for blues fest,” says Unterzuber.

River levels receded below 15 feet, which is flood stage, a row of yellow barricades separating fans from the remaining flood.

The fest kicked off with a tribute to Ellis Kell.

“He helped create everything with the river music experience, the love of the blues, the teaching of the blues… He was an absolute instrumental to the Quad Cities,” says guitarist Bret Dale.

Musicians also plan to honor longtime music educator Dick Vallandingham, who died from cancer July 5.

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society named one of its student music programs “Dr. V’s Bluesskool,” in his honor.