Two months later, Hawkins is facing another race against the clock but this time, the stakes are significantly higher. Hawkins and Steve Miller, his longtime friend who flew in from Las Vegas to help with the upstart event, are pressing ahead with plans to host a blues and jazz festival in Penn Valley Park the weekend of July 18-21, the same time and setting for the Blues and Jazz Festival the past eleven years. With three weeks left, Hawkins and Miller have no set lineup, no prominent sponsors and little on-the-record support from city officials. Their brochures for potential sponsors are amateurish, filled with clip-art graphics and typographical errors. On the plus side of the ledger, the pair boasts an eager and ample workforce of local musicians looking for a stage and desperate volunteers who are willing to help anyone put on a reasonable facsimile of Kansas Citys once-glorious event.
Perhaps still clinging to hopes of a resurrected world-class affair, many area artists have supported the efforts of Hawkins and Miller. Healthy turnouts are common at Sunday-night fund-raising auditions at the Mill Creek Brewery, where hopeful players jam and optimistic patrons buy early-bird festival tickets for $5. (The fact that Mill Creek has always been popular on Sunday evenings makes it difficult to gauge what percentage of the overflow crowd has actually come for the blues, though the thinly padded donation bucket and the packed second-floor pool room offer two clues.) Acts such as Danielle, Cotton Candy and Millage Gilbert have made sparkling contributions to the talent pool, and a few unknowns have sparked a buzz, standing out among the bar-band regulars and cover artists usually attracted by the open stage.
Similarly, some media outlets have greeted Hawkins and Miller with open airwaves. On June 7, Mark, Victor and Phil, hosts of the MVP Power Hour on Liberty-based KCXL 1140 (Radio Free Liberty!), congratulated the Blues Brothers, as Hawkins and Miller have dubbed themselves, for bringing the festival back. Upon hearing that the price of a three-day ticket would be $12, the radio personalities gushed, Thats the price youd be paying for one or two of these artists at the clubs. After Hawkins explained his focus on finding stars in our backyard, the DJs cheered that hometown flavor makes it more exciting. Toward the end of the softball session, interviewers and subjects alike agreed that they felt a lot of love in this room.