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Beer, Brats and Bluegrass Festival set for June 22

Posted: Tuesday, Jun 18th, 2013

Beer, Brats and Bluegrass Festival

EVANSTON — Gearing up for the third annual Beer, Brats and Bluegrass Festival at Depot Square on June 22 are EHS art instructor Kathy Bella and her many volunteers and vendors.

The Beer, Brats, and Bluegrass Festival began in 2011 as a fundraiser for the Build African Schools project. Bella, along with some of her students and some other EHS faculty, had been raising money for the effort through small-scale fundraisers since 2008.

Bella then organized a Bluegrass festival where the community raised enough money to have the first school in a Ndatani village in Kenya built in 2010. Some of the supporters who worked hard to get the school built were able to go to Kenya in 2010 to dedicate the school, which opened its doors to students in January 2011. The school is home to 300 students, and is the only place in the village that has electricity. The school is a secondary school and Bella estimates that the students range between grades 7 and 12.

In the middle of the African bush, Bella says that the electricity is generated by solar panels, and the community now has a well, put in by an organization called Well Aware for Clean Water. Through the fundraising efforts, computers have also been provided by HP for a computer lab at the school.

This year’s festival will help pay to send eight students and six adults to Africa to see the school. It will also provide two $1,000 travel scholarships that were awarded to students who will be going with the group to see the school and all the new work that has been done over the last year. A $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to an African student, as well.

If enough money is raised through this year’s festival, the hope is to bring an African student here to attend school for the 2014 academic year. Another project Bella’s team will be working on through the funding from the festival will be to help local disadvantaged youths get their education — so the monies will be working for young people both locally and globally. 

Patrick O’Sullivan, the founder of buildafricanschools.org, was in Kenya on an entirely different matter when he noticed a teacher with students around her drawing figures in the dirt to learn about math. The schools were in such bad shape that the students were more comfortable outside. The teachers estimated that it would take them six years of selling firewood to earn enough money to repair their school.

In the African bush, schools are far apart, and students can walk for miles to get to school in the jungle. Students were even being attacked by wild animals on their way to or from school. O’Sullivan came to Evanston and spoke at all of the schools in the district in 2008, when the efforts first began in our community to get a school built. 

The Pop, Dogs and Songs KidsFest kicks off Saturday’s events from noon to 3 p.m., and will include face painting, blow-up games, and arts and crafts. The main festival will be held from 3 to 10 p.m. featuring bands Screen Door Porch, the Puddle Mountain Ramblers, Unstrung, and the Smith Brothers Dirt Band. The bands have a variety of bluegrass sounds ranging from contemporary and bluesy to classic bluegrass. 

A Taylor GA3 guitar is being raffled off, with the winner to be announced at 9 p.m. during the last concert. There will also be souvenirs, vendors and booths throughout.

A new facet to the event is an open mic night, slated for the Friday evening prior to the event, in the square from 5 to 10 p.m. June 21.

For more information, log on to bluegrassevanston.com. 

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