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Blues Brothers Con: Can it happen again in Joliet?

Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi drew an estimated 6,000 people to the first Blues Brothers Con in Joliet.

Whether there will be another Blues Brothers Con next year is still to be decided. But Joliet Area Historical Museum Executive Director Greg Peerbolte said he’d like to do it again, and he’s not the only one.

“Judy Belushi called me Monday and said she’d love to have this event again,” Peerbolte said this week.

Judy Belushi, widow of original Blues Brother John Belushi and one of the people who envisioned a Blues Brothers performance at the Old Joliet Prison, called Peerbolte the Monday after the Aug. 19 performance.

Judy Belushi-Pisano, widow of John Belushi, performs at the Blues Brothers Con 2022 at the Old Joliet Prison, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Joliet.

Judy Belushi-Pisano, widow of John Belushi, performs at the Blues Brothers Con 2022 at the Old Joliet Prison, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Joliet. (Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

On the Sunday after the performance, Peerbolte got a call from Jim Belushi who, Peerbolte said, “was very happy with the event.”

The two-day event unfortunately was shortened by a rain-soaked Saturday.

But the weather was fine Friday night when an estimated 5,400 people came to see Aykroyd and Jim Belushi perform their Blues Brothers act in the prison that was featured in the opening scene of the movie released in 1980. Peerbolte estimates sponsors who received complimentary tickets brought several hundred people along with them.

Whether Aykroyd and Belushi will come back for a repeat performance is one factor in deciding whether to have a second Blues Brothers Con.

Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, of the Blues Brothers, perform Aug. 19 at Blues Brothers Con 2022 at the Old Joliet Prison.

Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, of the Blues Brothers, perform Aug. 19 at Blues Brothers Con 2022 at the Old Joliet Prison.
(Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

“We don’t know yet, but we feel good about our prospects,” Peerbolte said.

The museum manages the Old Joliet Prison in partnership with the city of Joliet, which has leased the former Joliet Correctional Center from the state since late 2017 with plans to covert the site into a destination point.

The appearance of the Blues Brothers advanced the cause, grabbing media attention that put a spotlight on the prison restoration efforts, Peerbolte said.

“It was really a front and center story,” he said.

The positive publicity and widespread interest were the primary rewards from Blues Brothers Con 2022. The cost of staging the event meant it was not a big money-raiser for the reclamation efforts.

Fans sporting tuxedo tee shirts cheer on the Blues Brothers at Blues Brothers Con 2022 in Joliet.

Fans sporting tuxedo tee shirts cheer on the Blues Brothers at Blues Brothers Con 2022 in Joliet.
(Gary Middendorf – gmiddendorf@shawmedia.com/)

Peerbolte said he expected to break even from Blues Brothers Con but it was not a big revenue generator.

He did count it as a major contributor to the cause as the museum and city demonstrate that there is value in preserving the prison as a tour and destination center.

A total of $7 million in federal and state government grants been contributed to the cause in the past couple of years, lessening the urgency of local fundraising to keep the project going.

“Overall, we were very happy,” Peerbolte said of Blues Brothers Con. “The response from the Blues Brothers fan base that we suspected was out there all along – we got confirmation of that.”

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Source: The Daily Chronicle

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