CHEROKEE, Iowa | The only way to get through a cold January weekend in Northwest Iowa is to listen to some hot music.

At least that’s the idea behind the Jazz and Blues Festival starting Friday and Saturday (Jan. 16 & 17) at various locations in the historic downtown area of Cherokee. The event will be hosted by the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce.

Julie Herring-Kent, executive director of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce, said the Jazz and Blues Festival started out as a way to attract people to town during a time of year when they would not traditionally visit Cherokee.

“It’s at a time when some of our venues are a little slower after the New Year kickoff,” said Herring-Kent. “It’s been a great way for us to partner with the restaurants, the bars and the other venues in Cherokee and bring people in.”

This year marks the 15th Jazz and Blues Festival. The event began in 1992 and was scheduled again the next year. Then there was a nine-year hiatus with no festivals. It was picked up once more in 2003 and has taken place every year since then.

The event consists of various pub crawls and concerts spread out around West Main Street.

“If one band goes on break or you’re ready to listen to a different type of music, then you can walk down the street and see what kind of things is happening at the next venue,” said Herring-Kent.

But even though it’s called the Jazz and Blues Festival, that doesn’t mean the event is strictly tied to those two genres. Herring-Kent said a number of rock, swing and country music talents will also perform. And with a Saturday jam session hosted by Sioux City’s own funky drummer Johnnie Bolin, it’s fair game to play anything and everything.

A few acts include Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Harper & Midwest Kind, Katy Guillen and the Girls, Chad Elliott, Sena Ehrhardt, and Daylight Again, a tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

The Jazz and Blues Festival offers other amenities during the weekend such as a courtesy car service. Throughout the duration of the festival, car drivers will provide transportation to Cherokee residents and motel guests who need a ride to and from the festival.

“It’s a free service that we offer,” said Herring-Kent. “They’ll pick you up and drop you off at whatever venue you want to go to, and then take you home at the end of the night.”

And those attendees looking to extend their night even further can stop over at Tammy’s Home Cooking, 222 West Main St., for a late meal starting at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“We don’t typically have restaurants that are open past 9 or 10 o’clock at night, but we do have one restaurant that will be open for an after-hours breakfast buffet,” said Herring-Kent.

The festivities will kick off with a performance at 6 p.m. by the Northwest Iowa Musicians at The Copper Cup, 425 West Main St., in honor of RJ Baker, who founded the festival in 1992. Three more acts will begin at 9 p.m. with Chad Elliott at Gasthaus, 214 West Main St.; Katy Guillen and the Girls at Brightside, 225 West Main St.; and Daylight Again at The Gathering Place, 207 West Main St.

The jam session with Johnnie Bolin starts at 1 p.m. Saturday also at The Gathering Place.

Saturday concerts will start at 9 p.m. with Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat at VFW, 113 East Maple St., Harper & Midwest Kind at Cherokee Bowl, 201 Linden St.; and Sena Ehrhardt at The Gathering Place.

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Weekender reporter

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