Everyone in Blackjack Billy is bonded together by music — specifically, the no-holds-barred, good-time, party-down rockin’ country that is endearing them to fans throughout and beyond the U.S.
The group first impacted in 2013, when they independently released their first single, “The Booze Cruise,” to digital media.
“Now, three years later, it’s still being downloaded and requested,” singer Noll Billings points out. “DJs are still cranking it when we walk into bars. It hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s gained momentum.”
Signed to Reviver Records, they are hard at work recording tracks for their label debut. They’re also revisiting the song that broke them in the digital world, this time with the aim of taking it for the first time to American country radio. “‘The Booze Cruise’ is brand new to millions of people who never heard it,” Jeff says. “We’ve sold 200,000-something downloads of the song in the U.S. independently. But once it hits terrestrial radio, we hope to make a lot of new fans.” Until then, word of mouth and incendiary performances alone are building Blackjack Billy’s fan base. “We are you,” Noll explains. “We’re big-time country fans. “We’re big-time rock and roll fans. We love music. We love mingling with and being part of the crowd. Usually when we’re done playing, we go find the coolest group of fans and go party with them. ” He turns to Jeff. “I’ve heard you say that we’re going to out-fun everyone. We’re going to have more energy than the crowd every night. If they step it up a notch, we’re going to step it up two.”
Sausage and Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Very few bands can get together two or three times a year and sound as if they’ve been touring for ten; this band is one of them. Comprised of musicians who’ve played with The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Kim Carnes, Jimmy Buffett, etc… They play everything from The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Elvis and Cream to the modern day Wilco.
Back by popular demand, Sausage and Peppers delivers music to please everyone!
In a world full of manufactured, auto tuned pop stars, come 5 men, 2 guitars, 1 bass, 1 half set of drums set up the wrong way round and a microphone or 2. When they receive the signal, they drop what they’re doing and unite to become the ultimate pop mash up outfit …. CTRL C.
With the focus on keeping the music world safe from pop criminals, CTRL C mash together all the songs you think you know and you know and you know you think you know …. Ya know?
So choose your musical weapon and come join the good fight, singing at the top of your voices, to help CTRL C maintain the balance in a world where music isn’t always what you think it should be.
Anthony and Valerie Rolando
Anthony is the United States Accordion Champion, and two times bronze medal winner in world Competition. His musical accomplishments are unsurpassed. He has won over 110 trophies since he began studying the accordion at the age of 5 years old. Anthony has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. His most memorable performance was to play in the orchestra and share a solo with the famous Italian Tenor, Luciano Pavarotti.
Valerie began singing at the age of three. Growing up she has used her drama and singing while performing for many Theatrical plays. Throughout all of her accomplishments, she has been awarded the Outstanding Women of America Award and she also holds the Marion Award Medal. One of the highest compliments given to her is that she has a “smile” in her voice. She is the vocalist with a lot of “heart” and she loves what she does. This you can see by the audiences she keeps!
Anthony and Valerie, a husband and wife duo, perform together and travel throughout the United States and Canada and wherever their journey takes them, with a wide variety of shows. They have been guests for many Television and Radio Programs. Being Italian you will find them as Headliners for Italian Festivals worldwide and Accordion Conventions, Competitions and fine Resorts have always found their show to be a favorite, leaving their audiences asking for more.
Anthony and Valerie Rolando will perform at 6:00 pm on Friday night and at 3:15 pm and 6:45 pm on Saturday at this year’s festival.
Kathryn Bisanti, Mezzo Soprano, is an Iowa native and Dowling Catholic High School Alumna. She studied Opera at the University of Kansas where she received a BA in vocal music. While at KU Kathryn participated in the University’s top choirs as well as various Opera and musical theater performances.
Kathryn’s studies have also taken her abroad to Spoleto, Italy where she performed in the Spoleto Arts Symposium and studied with world renowned vocal coaches. This past February, she was part of a new community based initiative called the Opera Project DSM where she played the role of the Zelatrice in Puccini’s Suor Angelica.
Today, Kathryn is spearheading the Omaha Opera Project. The purpose of this project is to give more performance opportunities to local singers. Omaha Opera Project will have its pilot performance in September.
Kathryn has been a featured musical performer at the Omaha Santa Lucia Italian Festival and has also performed at the Italian American Heritage Festival of Iowa for the past several years. She lives with her husband and four children in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kathryn will be performing on the Graziano Heritage Stage at 5:30 pm on both nights of the festival. Please come out and support our local talent!
Il Trattenimento Italiano
The Des Moines-based Italian Folk Dance Group, Il Trattenimento Italiano, had its start in 1959, when Patricia Civitate learned La Tarantella Napoletana as a youngster. When Civitate became a Girl Scout Troop Leader, she taught the dance to her troop of girls who represented Italy at various scouting events, whenever international cultures were being presented. In the early 1970s, she had a group of eight to ten children who wanted to dance, but La Tarantella Napoletana was the only Italian folk dance she knew.
In 1980, Civitate felt that there had to be more information available about Italian folk dances. She tried writing to Italian-American magazines but received no assistance. Shortly thereafter, she learned about the Italian Folk Art Federation of America (IFAFA) in a conversation with Rita Tonitto of Ft. Lee, NJ. Civitate attended the 1981 IFAFA Conference in New Jersey and just happened to share a room with the founder of the IFAFA, Cav. Elba Farabegoli Gurzau. In 1983, Civitate and her husband traveled with the IFAFA to Italy where she videotaped several dances.
Soon, the group’s repertoire grew. In a few years, at an IFAFA Conference in Philadelphia, PA, Civitate taught a workshop on teaching Italian dances to children. At that time, the Des Moines children were the only children’s group in the IFAFA. This presentation was an inspiration to many of the adult dancers to return to their cities and begin forming children’s groups. In 1988, Il Trattenimento Italiano hosted the IFAFA Conference in Des Moines.
Il Trattenimento Italiano has an Iowa Incorporation status as well as representatives on the the Board of Governors of the Italian-American Cultural Center.
The adult group of Il Trattenimento Italiano currently consists of 3 men and 8 women. The Ragazzi group is made up of 16 children. New members are recruited through invitations in their newsletter and through personal contact.
Il Trattenimento Italiano will perform several times during this year’s festival. See the Schedule Page for more details.
They perform annually at Italian Festivals in Lawrence, Kansas, Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri. Other performances have been for St. Joseph Tables every March throughout the greater Kansas City area at various Churches.
You can enjoy their musical renditions as the Gumbas perform at 1:00 pm on Saturday and as they stroll around the festival grounds.
Willie Farrell – Master of Ceremonies
Des Moines native Willie Farrell has performed in nearly every comedy club in the country, but now spends most of the year onstage performing at showrooms on the Las Vegas strip and at corporate events.
Farrell’s career began during open-mic night at a local Des Moines comedy club in the early ’80s when his friends convinced him to take the stage. “I thought, ‘It’s only a Monday night. There won’t be many people here,'” Farrell said. But he was in for a surprise — the audience was comprised of 300 people.
“I tried to back out but all of my friends came and paid a cover. They said I’d have to repay them if I didn’t go on. I didn’t have any money, so I had to go on,” Farrell said. “I was either too dense or too scared to know that public speaking is supposed to be scary because it didn’t bother me. I still haven’t learned because it still doesn’t bother me.”
Twenty-five years later, Farrell has made a career out of making people laugh.
“To be honest, I have no other marketable skills,” Farrell said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be leaning on a shovel for the city somewhere.”