The sound of good times returned to Grand Island’s Railside District kicked off Saturday for two days of live music, classic cars, clowns and good food brought some summertime fun to the community.

40 North Tap and Grille, in cooperation with North Elm businesses and the city of Grand Island, hosted an outdoor music festival on Saturday and Sunday.

The festival includes six rock and country music performances and 18 hours of live entertainment on stage at Third and North Elm streets, which the city had blocked off for the occasion. Along with the live music, there was a classic car show Saturday and for the kids, Happy D Klown entertained with his creative balloon art.

Event organizer, Jay Vavricek, said the festival started as a vision several years go.

Vavricek is the owner of 40 North Tap and Grille and a former Grand Island mayor. His vision was to bring a quality event to the community’s historic downtown.

”This is part of the vision of 40 North to provide entertainment-driven quality events for downtown, ” he said.

For several years, Hear Grand Island has been a venue for outdoor live music in the Railside District. Hear Grand Island was canceled this year because of the coronavirus. The 40 North event helps continue the tradition of summertime music in the Railside District.

Vavricek said Hear Grand Island has been a successful event that helps drive people to the downtown area.

The timing of this weekend’s festival coincides with the classic car show that takes place each August in the Railside District. Vavricek wanted to complement the 40 North event with the car show.

He said the event was planned with the help of the city of Grand Island and the Central District Health Department so that it met with all the health directives to make it safe for all who attend.

”People are enjoying themselves,” Vavricek said Saturday afternoon. ”People love being outdoors and being downtown.”

He said people have been abiding by the COVID-19 health directives, but they also wanted a little normalcy to return to their lives. He said that can be somewhat achieved by following the health directives while around other people.

”This is what it’s about — doing it the right way so people can feel comfortable,” Vavricek said. ”Hopefully, this is something we can build on with all of downtown. Next year, when we have this event, there will be classic cars up and down Third Street. This is going to be a celebration of downtown and an opportunity to enjoy life in the right sort of way.”

Providing a lot of smiles to young and old alike at the event was Happy D Klown. He said he was creating twist balloon creations and ”entertaining kids of all ages.”

With the virus affecting the normal flow of life, Happy D Klown said his goal is to ”bring joy and happiness to people and ”just put a smile on their faces.”

He has been entertaining people for more than 30 years. He has entertained girls and boys of all ages through many different events and circumstances in life.

”But through it all, a clown always brings joy and happiness,” he said.

Opening the music festival was Dillon Gaige and his band. Gaige lives in Dodge and when he is not out entertaining people with his music, he works as a designer.

Like all musicians, he said his band has been impacted by health restrictions placed upon society during the pandemic.

”Luckily, we do a lot of work with DJ Bridwell Band and we have been on the road with him for the past month playing all over the state,” Gaige said. ”We have been keeping as busy as we can.”

DJ Bridwell Band is another popular Nebraska band and one of the festival’s headliners.

Gaige, who has been performing before crowds for three years, said playing before an audience is vital to musicians.

”We feed off their energy and feed off the smiles,” he said.

The 40 North event continues Sunday with live music, food, beverages and much more throughout the afternoon.

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