Guitar licks and ice cream licks abide peacefully together. Sizzling solos compete with sizzling entrees.

In general, sweet tunes complement tasty treats.

Welcome to the Johnson-Witkemper Insurance Biggest Block Party Ever along Washington and Fourth streets in downtown Columbus. The July 23 event, the 11th annual Columbus Area Arts Council’s fundraiser, promises to satiate those with an appetite for music or meals.

Twelve bands, from bluegrass to psychedelic. Nine vendors, from tacos to barbecue.

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Plus, the event that drew 2,500 people last year offers a generous variety of children’s activities in a Hilliard Lyons Kid’s Zone, where a life-sized chess set and matches proved popular last year, along with painting with oversized brushes.

The area is meant to provide kids of all ages experience with hands-on art activities and games, said Tami Sharp, the arts council’s program director.

The event, which began in 2006 to bolster arts council finances as grants and other funding became scarcer, has generated about $30,000 annually — and plenty of positive feedback.

“Music seemed to be more of a draw in the beginning days,” Sharp said. “(But) by bringing in regional food trucks (in recent years) and adding local vendors, we have built more interest in dining.”

Maybe so. But Ben Williams, the drummer, lead vocalist and leader of headlining band The Warrior Kings, is determined to make his group’s hard rock as meaty as possible.

“It definitely will be an onslaught of guitars and drums and bass, similar to Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin,” Williams said of his Indianapolis-based trio.

The Kings aim to crown their set with a mix of covers ranging from the Rolling Stones to the Beatles to original tunes from the band’s two discs of aggressive rock and what Williams calls “dark blues.” Williams’ lyrics run from love and lust to character stories of the blues.

Amid the group’s one-hour set will be “a lot of freestyle jamming,” Williams said.

“They are all amazing musicians and fun to watch,” Sharp said.

Guitarist and vocalist Charlie Greer of the six-member, local classic rock band Back in the Day mentioned that the substantial exposure of the Block Party might offer the two-year-old group a wider audience. The act features Kevin Spiker on drums, Jerry Lowman on guitar, Tom Bartel on keyboards, Ron Harrison on bass and singer Michal Pennington.

“Probably the toughest part of everything for us is simply deciding what to play,” he said.

No wonder.

The ensemble’s expanding 45-song repertoire includes the Eagles, Boston, Kansas, Styx, Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin and even Deep Purple, which he acknowledged is rarely part of the normal cover collection.

In fact, crowd favorites often include Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”

The schedule and vendors

Dunlap Stage (Fourth Street by The Commons)

5:45 p.m. — Jason Graham (acoustic classic hits).

6:30 p.m. — Back in the Day (classic rock covers).

8 p.m. — Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel (soul, blues, rock).

9:30 p.m. — Rods and Cones (muscular rock).

Johnson-Witkemper Stage (Washington Street)

6 p.m. — Hamilton Creek (bluegrass).

7 p.m. — J.D. Maulin (Hoosier Americana).

8 p.m. — The Peach/Clark Band (psychedelic pop-rock).

9 p.m. — Derick Howard (acoustic funk).

Bud Light Stage (PNC Bank parking lot on Fourth Street)

5:45 p.m. — Six Ways to Sunday (country rock covers).

7 p.m. — Denny Snyder Band (funky blues-based roots group).

8:30 p.m. — The Johnson Way (contemporary rock covers).

10 to 11 p.m. — The Warrior Kings (hard rock with dark blues).

Food vendors: The Big Cheeze, Talkin’ Turkey, Le Petit Caraibes, Taco Tent, Jordy McTaggart’s, Indiana Smoke House, S’mores Mobile, Firehouse Ice Cream

Rocking around the block

What: Annual Johnson-Witkemper Biggest Block Party Ever presented by the Columbus Area Arts Council.

When: 5:30 to 11 p.m. July 23.

Where: Along Washington and Fourth streets in downtown Columbus.

Admission: $8. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.

Concessions: Variety of food and drinks, including alcohol.

Information: 812-376-2539 or

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.