For the first time ever, I'm giving you a blog post from someplace other than the apartment building I live in back in Omaha, NE.
This post is coming to you from the Sheraton Four Points Hotel here in Peoria, IL...the venue that, for the second year in a row, is hosting the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival.
2013 is, officially, the second year for the contest to kick off on a Thursday...meaning that I've been on the road since 5-22-2013, when I left the Big O to come to the Two River City (none other than Des Moines, IA, where my younger brother, younger sister-in-law, and nephew- Mike, Angela, and their son Jordan, respectively- live).
After visiting with Mike, Angela, and Jordan, I left Des Moines (home of Drake University) yesterday to come to the city where Bradley University (42,000 students strong) is located.
Got here at 4:08 PM (CDT); two hours after checking in at the hotel, I made it to the place where OTPP now gets launched...the Sky Harbor Steakhouse (1321 N. Park Rd., West Peoria, IL 61604).
From 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (or until everybody's exhausted), the Sky Harbor (309 674-5532) hosts the contest's "tune-ups," an event that previously took place in a couple of hotel meeting rooms.
No...I'm NOT a contestant this year (I'm shooting for 2014).
So the Sky Harbor get-together served as my prelims and semifinals.
The restaurant has two pianos- a spinet (we didn't get to play it) on one end of the place and an old Grinnell Bros. upright (we did get to play it) on the other side.
The buffet was great (especially the chicken and the refills on iced tea)...and after I got done eating, I was able to put over "Red River Valley," "Barney Google," my version of what could've been Del Wood's version of "Grand March (from 'Aida')," and a 1902 number written by a St. Louis composer named E. Warren Furry, "Robardina Rag."
Man, it's a good thing I spent the last three weeks trying to get some practice in!
Even better than that, it was really great to hear "Perfessor" Bill Edwards, Adam Swanson, John Remmers, and former Regular Division contestant John Yates- to say nothing of the man behind OTPP, Ted Lemen- play.
There's a lot more playing to see- and do- before this weekend comes to a close.
And when I come back, I'm going to let you in on some of that.