Rivers Edge Pavillion
In 1998 the Rotary Club of Dubuque was in need of a "big" project to inspire and motivate our members to get involved. At that time the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium was preparing to launch a major fund drive in cooperation with the City of Dubuque to construct what has become the "River Walk."
One of the elements of this very expensive project was "The Pavilion at River's Edge." After many meetings and thoughtful planning the board of directors voted to pledge $50,000 to this part of the project and to fund it with a series of events that we called "SwingFest" to be held at the site of the old Star Brewery. The musical event with food and beverages would feature a traditional swing orchestra playing music of the 40s plus a neo-swing combo playing "jump swing" that was becoming very popular at the time.
We pitched the project to the club membership. Many of the members sat in stunned silence when the $50,000 pledge was announced. Others greeted the challenge with enthusiasm. Within a few weeks the club was totally behind the effort and plans moved forward.
We hit a real roadblock in early April of 1999 when brewery management announced they were closing the facility and the planned site of our event couldn't be used. Fortunately, one of our members had recently opened a jazz bar in Plaza 20. A huge parking lot was adjacent to his facility. We made arrangements with the property owner and surrounding businesses to close the parking lot for 12 hours on the date of the first "SwingFest."
Dozens of Rotarians descended on the property early that Saturday morning to fence it in, set up tables and chairs, signs, etc. to make it ready for the 6pm start. Hundreds of residents paid $10 each to enjoy the evening. That income combined with sponsors resulted in an outstanding profit for the club.
A tradition had been born. "Swingfest" continued for 5 years and the $50,000 debt was paid off easily. As the popularity of swing and jump-swing subsided we changed the name to "Rotary's Rock n Soul Reunion on the River" and moved back to the Port of Dubuque because the brewery property had been beautifully renovated and equipped for concerts.
Since that first concert about $200,000 has been raised for community projects in Dubuque through the efforts of Rotary club members, family and friends.