On Saturday, downtown Hammond was the scene of the 11th Annual Beatlesfest which brought out festival and Beatles fans from around the Region and the Chicagoland area. The event featured 12 bands, including Beatles tribute band American English, on two stages along with Beatles memorabilia and merchandise, food, drinks and fun things to do for the kids, including a large bouncy house.
Although the weather wasn’t great, thousands showed up to enjoy the festival that an army of volunteers made possible.
“It’s getting bigger every year,” said Phil Taillon, City of Hammond Director of Planning and Development. “Last year we had 3000 people and this year we’re expecting more like 4000 going by ticket sales.”
“We’ve got two stages this year for the first time,” said Taillon. “12 bands -- the largest amount we’ve had! Every year it’s getting bigger and bigger. People are catching on it’s seems like once folks come here once, it seems like they come back every year.”
“The first Beatles Fest event had around 70 people inside a cafe so to go from that to 3000-4000 people is just amazing,” Taillon said.
Two brothers, John and Paul Vezmar, founded Beatles Fest 11 years ago and the event has now grown to the point where a large section of Hohman Avenue in Hammond is closed down to accommodate all that the festival has going on.
“We were in downtown Highland, and it was actually started at a coffee shop there,” said Beatles Fest Co-Founder, John Vezmar. “We just loved the Beatles. We grew up on it with my dad playing guitar and Beatles songs.”
The 11th Annual Beatlesfest is, between closing downtown Hammond, adding a 2nd stage and more live bands, a year of firsts for the ever-growing Beatles Fest
“We did a lot of live concerts at the cafe and we decided to do a night about the Beatles,” said Vezmar of the first event 11 years ago. “It was, maybe, 70 people and it was packed for a coffee shop. The next year we decided to move it outside and to downtown Hammond as we had opened up a shop here. It was just in the parking lot and there was 150 people, and now here we are shutting down Hohman Avenue.”
“This is the first year we’ve done that,” Vezmar said of closing off part downtown Hammond. “It’s a new ballgame for us. There’s a learning curve. It poured rain last night and we had so many people out here in ponchos and they were a force to be reckoned with. We just had an absolutely great team this year.”
Attending the Fest was Amanda McCarthy from Oak Lawn, Illinois, who, after coming to last year’s Beatles Fest, decided to bring some friends along with her this year.
“This is my 2nd year coming to Beatles Fest,” said McCarthy. “It was like nothing else I had been to. The community was very welcoming and the event was really motivating! I love downtown Hammond and this is just such a great experience.”