Bix Beiderbecke, for those of you who don’t know, was a jazz genius, a coronet player who jammed with the likes of Hoagy Carmichael and played with the Jean GoldKette Orchestra and the Paul Whitman Band. When he died on August 6, 1931, of pneumonia, quite a few musicians and music lovers took it hard.
In 1971, some jazz musicians decided to honor the 40th Anniversary of Bix’s death. They visited the gravesite in Davenport’s Oakdale Cemetery and planned a jam session at the Holiday Inn. Well, more than 2,000 people showed up at that session to listen and join in (according to the next day’s Times-Democrat), so they decided to make it an annual event: The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. A few years later, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society was formed to keep the festival going, and they certainly have. The event moved to LeClaire Park in its second year and mostly stayed there, but what with the Mississippi River being a little uncooperative this summer, the 2008 festival will be held at the baseball stadium.
Meanwhile, the Cornbelt Running Club had the idea of establishing a 7-mile running event through some of the scenic historic neighborhoods* of central Davenport. As everyone was already coming to Davenport for the memorial Jazz Festival, the Club set the event for the same weekend in 1975 and dubbed it the Bix 7 Run. Only 70 people competed in that first race, which started at the foot of Perry Street hill, wound down Kirkwood Boulevard and around through a deceptively challenging course before turning around at McClellan Boulevard and East River Drive. But by 1980, several world class runners—including Olympic gold medalists Frank Shorter and Joan Benoit—had joined in, giving the race national publicity and sending participation through the roof. In 1983, they had to switch the starting line to the foot of four-lane Brady Street hill to accommodate the expansion. Since then, thousands of runners have registered each year–and thousands of cheerleaders have hollered them up and down the course and into the major party and recovery site downtown.**
So come on down (or up, or over) to Davenport this weekend (that would be the 26th and 27th) to work up a sweat running, cheering, clapping, or jamming at the Bix 7 Road Race or the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. You’ll see us at the finish line—the Main Street library will be closed.***
(Posted by Sarah)
*Which includes some of the highest hills and steepest grades in the city, too, but we’re sure that’s just a coincidence.
** Which is most appreciated, since the only way some of us can get up that looong initial hill—a 12% grade, according to our Public Works Department– is through the encouragement of others!
***Mostly because you can’t get near the library during the race!