’Cash for Kids’ fundraiser — a Johnny Cash festival — set for May 6 at Irish-American Heritage Center in Mayfair; Fest towing the line for nearly 20 years
by BRIAN NADIG
The origins of the annual “Cash for Kids” fundraiser, whose organizers say is Chicago’s only Johnny Cash festival, stem from a former Our Lady of Victory pastor and a friend playing at a local bar.
“Father Chris (Doering) was all about Johnny Cash and classic country. He knew all the songs,” said Stephen Davern, one of the festival’s founders. “If you sat around a campfire with him, he could play all night.”
Davern and Doering, who is now a military chaplain, used to play together at the then-Rosie O’Brien’s bar, 5734 N. Elston Ave. (now the Nil Tap), and one day an idea for a Johnny Cash-themed fundraiser popped up, Davern said.
Not long after that the family-friendly festival started in 2005, raising funds for the Gompers Park Athletic Association and showcasing local talent.
The festival later relocated to the Irish-American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., where there are three stages and about 10 bands that typically play from 3 p.m. to midnight. It draws some performers from Nashville — considered the capital of country music.
“It got big really fast,” Davern said of the festival, which attracts 800 to 1,000 people.
The festival is not intended to feature a list of Johnny Cash look-alike performers, but a variety of musicians performing a mix of their original songs and their takes on the music of Cash and June Carter, an award-winning singer who was Cash’s second wife, Davern said.
This year’s festival will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 6, featuring Iron Horse and fest favorite Hayden Thompson, who is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, according to Davern, who also is one of performers.
Also performing are The Hoyle Brothers, Hodie Snitch, Eddie Clendening and the Blue Ribbon Boys, School of Rock Chicago, The Amazing Heebie Jeebies, The Ramblin’ Redeemed, John Kilmer, Wild Earp and the OK Chorale and Genevieve Heyward.
Tickets purchased in advance are $20 and at the door $25. Tickets are available at https://team.curethekids.org/event/2023-cash-for-kids/e469734
Proceeds benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, which funds research and provides support to families dealing with the disease.