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Rhythm on the Rock music fest aims to draw people downtown

By Sarah Zimmermann
August 12, 2015

JANESVILLE—It's gonna get loud downtown—but in a good way.

Food and beer vendors, six local bars and 15 bands will come together Sunday, Aug. 16, for the second annual Rhythm on the Rock—a festival meant to bring people to, and to show off, downtown Janesville.

The event replaced Rock Around the Block, which ended in 2012 after funds and volunteers dwindled when the event grew too large.

With Rhythm on the Rock, the goal is to offer different genres of music that will appeal to a larger audience but on a smaller scale, said Barry Badertscher, event president.

“You want to change it up, have something for everyone,” Badertscher said.

The event's two headliners emphasize the variation in sound. The Eddie Butts Band of Milwaukee blends sounds of jazz, R&B and pop, while The Cal Stage Band focuses predominantly on country rock. Local favorites  Exmoor, Gary the Band and  the Zac Matthews Band also will perform.

The event's main stage will be set up between BMO Harris Bank, 100 N. Main St., and The Looking Glass Pub, 18 N. Main St. Non-headliners will perform inside participating bars.

Also, Main Street between Center Avenue and Milwaukee Street will be closed to traffic during the event, Badertscher said.

Badertscher said about 2,000 people attended last year's event, and he estimates similar numbers this year. Eventgoers need not be 21 years of age to attend, but a parent or guardian must accompany those younger than 21 who wish to enter participating bars.

“We want to bring as many people as we can downtown and show them downtown Janesville,” Badertscher said.

The event is free, and none of the bars will collect a cover charge. An outside tent will offer beer and hard cider for $3, and food vendors will sell pizza and sandwiches. Participating bars also will be selling food and drinks.

Proceeds from the event now go to the Janesville Downtown Development Alliance so it can continue to fund future events downtown. As Rhythm on the Rock grows, Badertscher hopes to use the money to reinvest in other downtown projects.

Badertscher said after Rock Around the Block ended, a few local bar owners approached him and proposed starting a new, smaller downtown event. That led to the formation of Rhythm on the Rock, which bar owners and Badertscher have been meeting monthly to plan.

The bar owners aren't going into the event expecting to make a lot of money, Badertscher said. Everyone involved has the same goal: to get people downtown.

“It's where our history is,” he said. “If we look back at the history of our community, it all starts downtown. We don't want to lose that.”

Badertscher expects Rhythm on the Rock to become bigger in the future. For next year's event, he hopes to gather more sponsors and marketing money to help promote it.

The response to last year's inaugural event was overwhelmingly positive, said Badertscher, who encourages people to check out this year's event not only to hear some great music, but also to catch up with friends and neighbors in the community.

“It's just a fun day,” he said. “We bring in a nice crowd. There's no fighting, no people being over-served. It's just a great way to spend an afternoon.”