DIXON – Lyle Grobe and the Rhythm Ramblers will take the stage on the Petunia Festival’s final day, just as they did 50 years ago for the first Petunia Festival.
I recently caught up with the 77-year-old Grobe for a few minutes to pick his brain about how the festival, and the music specifically, has changed during its 50 years.
“I think we were one of the bigger bands then,” he said of the early days. “There were a few local bands. It would have been a small local band before us. They didn’t try to bring in big bands.”
Not to diminish the stature of Grobe and his band, but in recent years, Petunia Festival has brought in bands with some national credentials.
Last year, it was the Spin Doctors. This year, Rusted Root, Parmalee and The Wood Brothers performed. But there are still the local bands, like Grobe’s and Gina Venier & the Gentlemen, among others.
The move to more music and performances every day, for Grobe, has been a good change.
“I think the more music the better,” he said.
This year, a second music stage was added, so more music could be played and there wouldn’t be downtime while bands set up on the main stage.
Grobe’s connection to the musical soul of the festival isn’t limited to on-stage performances. His band also recorded the original version of the song Petunia Time in Dixon.
The band played the early Petunia Festivals through the late 1970s, Grobe said, and didn’t return until 2008 or 2009.
When the band returned to the stage, the songs were the same. It’s not that Grobe doesn’t like more modern music. It’s just that his band has built a fanbase that likes what they play.
So why change it?, he said, adding that there are plenty of great bands that play new music.
For Grobe, it’s those fans who keeping coming out to hear the old songs and fill the crowd at Petunia Festival or other shows who make the difference.
“That’s why we still do this,” he said.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Dixon.
He can be reached at email@example.com or at 815-625-3600, ext. 5529. Follow him on twitter: @MattMencarini.