News Column

The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Eye on the Arts column

June 29, 2014

By Craig Neises, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

June 29--The tradition continues as the Ozone Ramblers will give their 36th year anniversary performance at Riverfest from 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday at Sidelines in Fort Madison.

Founded in Fort Madison in 1978, the Ozone Ramblers started performing with four members playing acoustic bluegrass music. In 1980, the band reformed with six members, and began mixing acoustic and electric music and touring extensively throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In 1981, they traveled to Nashville and recorded with legendary steel guitar player and producer Pete Drake. A few months later they were signed as recording artists on RCA Records Mexico, and recorded two albums in Mexico City, produced by Tony de la Barreda, the former bass player for Canned Heat.

In 1983, the Ozone Ramblers played a benefit concert in Fort Madison to raise money to help save the town's annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration, which became the annual event known as Riverfest. Throughout the '80s the band made numerous more trips to Nashville to perform and record more albums, which were co-produced by Pete Drake's son, Johnny Drake, and Greg Kane. In 1988, the band placed first in the seventh annual True Value Country Showdown for Iowa.

Members of the group include: David Roth, guitar, lead and harmony vocals; Ned Francis, guitar, five-string banjo, lead and harmony vocals; Roger Richardson, drums, lead and harmony vocals; Mike Boyer, steel guitar, guitar, lead vocals; Gary Dowell, keyboards; Keating Hissem, bass guitar; Bronson Herrmuth, harmonica, fiddle, guitar, lead and harmony vocals; and Chino, sound engineer.

"Over the years this annual event has become more like one big Ozone Rambler family reunion and we're very excited to play our River Rock music for you one more time. 36 years is a long time and the only way it's been possible is from the incredible support we've been given by our long time friends and families, our Rambler Fan Club. It would be awesome if you could all join us to help celebrate our history and America's Independence Day too. I know we'll have big fun and be sure and wear your dancing shoes. Party time on the river with the Ozone Ramblers," said the band in a statement.

Last call for Ralph

Here's another plug for "In the Matter of Ralph," which concludes a three-day run at 2 p.m. today at the Capitol Theater in downtown Burlington.

The play depicts the Iowa Supreme Court's first case, decided 175 years ago July 4 in Burlington. In it, the namesake slave, Ralph, has been working in the lead mines of Dubuque trying to raise enough money to buy his freedom. The time period his owner gave him has lapsed, and two bounty hunters have been dispatched to Dubuque to get him and haul him back to Missouri.

Ralph is intercepted in Burlington and a landmark court case unfolds whereby local attorney David Rohrer argues since Ralph no longer is in a slave state, he should be declared free.

The play, written by three Dubuque playwrights, was presented in the Des Moines County Courthouse on the 150th anniversary of the decision. While it portrays an important piece of history, there also are moments of levity -- and this time it's being presented in a more comfortable environment, the Capitol Theater.

If you miss the play today, odds are you'll have to wait until 2039 when an encore performance should be planned for the event's 200th anniversary.

Get on board

Today is the final day of Galesburg's annual Railroad Days.

After more than a decade away from downtown, the event has returned to Main Street this year at the request of local merchants.

The carnival will be spread around the public square with numerous other attractions happening downtown.

The festival coincides with the Midwest's largest train and toy show at Carl Sandburg College. A shuttle will provide transportation between the two events.

Patriotic tributes

Southeast Iowa and west-central Illinois are not wanting for Fourth of July events, and a long holiday weekend will give the most ardent patriot ample opportunities to celebrate the anniversary of the country's declaration of independence from Great Britain.

A good place to start is the traditional Charlie Korschgen Kiddie Parade at 10 a.m. Friday in downtown Fort Madison.

Started in 1913 by a railroad clerk, Charlie Korschgen bought a clutch of American flags, grabbed his snare drum and led neighborhood children around a block on Fort Madison's west end. Over the years, the parade route grew longer and the number of participants grew larger until it became a community tradition.

While the parade observed its centennial last year, Fort Madison still must throw a couple more before it will have staged more without Korschgen than with him. Korschgen died in 1966 after leading 53 parades -- though it must be said Charlie's spirit has accompanied every parade participant since.

Participants begin lining up at 8:30 a.m. at the old middle school near 18th Street and Avenue G. The parade heads down Avenue G before breaking up in the 600 block.

For more information about participating in the fun event, call the longtime organizer, Andy Andrews, at (319) 371-5379.

Major fireworks shows Friday night will take place in West Burlington to conclude that city's Fourth of July celebration, the Burlington Golf Club, Fort Madison, Keokuk, Keosauqua, Mount Pleasant and many other venues.

On Saturday, Montrose is joining forces with its cross-river neighbor, Nauvoo, Ill., for a bi-city fireworks show at 9:15 p.m. Special viewing areas have been set up on the Montrose riverfront and in Nauvoo State Park.

Special birthday

The capital of the Villages of Van Buren, Keosauqua, is observing its 175th birthday Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Activities begin at 7 a.m. Friday with an all-you-can eat pancake and sausage breakfast in City Park.

There will be kid's games, bingo, a petting zoo, bounce house and kiddie train throughout the day in the park. The Harvest Band will perform on the riverfront stage at 6 p.m., which will give way to a fireworks display over the Des Moines River.

Biscuits and gravy will be served Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. A parade with an 1840s theme will begin at 10 a.m.

The Cattlemen's Association will serve lunch Saturday and Sunday. At 1 p.m. Sunday, there will be a kiddie parade with free birthday cake and ice cream served at 3 p.m.

Special memorial

One more Fourth of July weekend activity of note: A 10:30 a.m. Saturday, ground will be broke for the new Mississippi Valley Veterans Memorial west of the Burlington Area RecPlex, followed by a free lunch until 1 p.m.

Eye on the Arts is a weekly column highlighting the people and events on the cultural scene in and around the Great River Region. If you have an item for this space, email it to


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Source: Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA)

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