Saturday, July 20, 2019

A tale of two ragtime festivals (Part 1) seems as if two ragtime festivals took place here in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area last weekend.

But one and the same got on the books: The 2019 Ragtime to Riches Festival.

This year's was the first two-day version since the 2010 edition...the fourth and last R to R held at the Strauss Performing Arts Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (UNO priced the Strauss Center out of the Great Plains Ragtime Society's reach not long afterwards, so the local rag club had to find another place for the fest.)

Since 2011, R to R has taken place at Omaha's First Central Congregational United Church of Christ. 

This year, First Central got a Saturday partner: The Pink Poodle Steakhouse in Crescent, IA.

On 7-13-2019, at 5:00 PM (Central time), a "Tune-Ups Party" took place at the legendary Crescent restaurant...the eatery with some of the best prime rib in the Omaha Metro and three working antique upright player pianos.

And all three old uprights got a workout...especially the middle one, a 1913 Bellmann. (The others are a 1919 Gulbransen and a 1916 Ricca & Son.)

In the photo above, the Bellmann is on the left, the Ricca's on the right.

In the publicity for the "Tune-Ups Party," it was said that at least one of this year's featured R to R 15.0 performers would play at the Pink Poodle during an event modeled after a similar one...the Thursday night tune-ups that kick off the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival.

If it hadn't been for two little girls (Maddie and Brooke) and the mother of another little girl (a youngster named Echo; I wish I knew her mom's name) stepping up to tickle the keys, I would've played the entire length of the Pink Poodle tune-ups.

Three hours. 

I still had lots of fun at the Poodle, and- equally important- the restaurant's dining room was half full of customers.

When I come back, I'll tell you what R to R's 2019 Sunday session was like. 


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