While Hammond’s annual Beatles Fest has been a hit with regionites for more than a decade, festival co-founder John Vezmar enjoys making changes and tweaks to his creation.
“I just want to make it the best it can be every year,” he said. “I had no idea where this was going when it started, and I’m grateful for what it’s turned into. It’s all about the music and everybody coming out and having a good time, and I love it.”
Kicking off at 1 p.m. Saturday in downtown Hammond, Vezmar, started his annual Fab Four tribute in 2006. It was held in the intimate space of Highland’s now defunct Blue Room Café and approximately 300 fans came out to hear area songsmiths put their unique spins on the Beatles' esteemed catalog.
As in the past, this year’s fest will take up approximately two blocks of downtown Hammond. Vezmar estimates thousands of attendees, both from and beyond the Region, will come to the event.
This year marks the second year the festival has been held on Hammond’s downtown streets.
“I think everybody loved it last year on the street compared to everywhere else that it’s been,” Vezmar said. “The viewing area for the bands, no matter where you are, is going to be excellent.”
This year’s lineup is made up of eight acts and is headlined by The McCartney Years, an Ontario, Canada-based six-piece ensemble concentrating on Paul McCartney’s early 1970s solo output and his works later that decade with Wings.
The McCartney Years is the first foreign band to perform at a Beatles Fest.
Also scheduled to perform at this year’s festival is MegaBeatles, an all-star lineup of perennial Region rockers putting their spin on Beatles favorites and deep cuts; festival regulars and longtime area favorites Nomad Planets; Rooftop, another collection of area musicians whose set concentrates on the Fab Four’s final live performance and latter-year Beatles songs; and DJ Rhythm Scholar.
“This is our most solid lineup,” Vezmar said. ‘It’s not our biggest, but it’s honed in and solid. You put the MegaBeatles on their own as a headliner, it would be a phenomenal lineup.”
In addition to the musical offerings, nearly a dozen food, drink and merchandise vendors will be on hand for the festival.