The Minnesota Festival of Jazz on the Prairie provides the melodies, while the Eden Prairie Noon Rotary Club’s Rib Fest fundraiser delivers the heat.
After being sidelined in 2020 by the pandemic, the tandem is back together to serve a feast for the ears and the stomach.
Rib Fest, held in conjunction with the city-sponsored Jazz on the Prairie, takes place from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Staring Lake Amphitheatre, 14800 Pioneer Trail.
Seven big band jazz bands will perform while the Noon Rotary keeps the ribs cooking. Rib Fest, along with a raffle and a disc golf tournament that day, are the club’s major fundraiser.
Sam Eicher, club president for the 2021-22 Rotary year, said that the funds collected from Rib Fest are put toward the club’s many service projects over the coming months.
One of the more significant events the funds go toward is My Book Day, he said. My Book Day promotes literacy by providing Eden Prairie first graders with a book of their choice. It is held in conjunction with the students of Eden Prairie High School.
When asked about goals for this year’s festival, Eicher said the main objective is “to get back to where we were.”
Each year up until the pandemic, he said Rib Fest has grown in popularity.
“And now we just want to return to our previous peak; getting back to where we were before Covid would be phenomenal,” he said.
Typically, the event would take place in June but is a fall event this year.
Because the ribs need to be prepared the day before the event, he said Rib Fest is weather-dependent. Contingency plans are in the works should the weather be less than ideal.
“We try to pre-sell as many tickets as we can so that the money goes toward donations regardless, so we can still raise money,” Eicher said.
‘Diversifying the club’
After a decade of Rib Fests, Noon Rotary member Nick Rogers said it runs “like a well-oiled machine.” As event chair, he works with vendors to ensure the event is fully supplied with food.
Rogers said the bands participating in the jazz festival are “a bit out of practice” from their pandemic layoff.
“So there’s a lot of energy and excitement around the return of live music,” he said.
As far as goals for this year’s event, Rogers hopes to generate interest in the Noon Rotary’s work and gain new members after losing some throughout the pandemic.
He shared Eicher’s long-term vision of “diversifying the club and getting more youth interest. In the past, Rotary has been heavily composed of older white men, and we’re hoping to progress in that aspect.”
For more on the Minnesota Festival of Jazz on the Prairie, click here.