Festival down Cherry Alley sweetens Urbana

The second year of Urbana’s Cherry Jam festival continues to sweeten with local bands and featured restaurants in downtown Urbana. From June through August, this free summer festival takes place Friday evenings from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Cherry Alley next to The Urbana Free Library.

Cody Stunkard, events assistant at the Urbana Business Association, said the festival is a “musical summertime series” with different local bands performing free of charge to garner more fan support and businesses supplying free samples to attract more customers.

“We just provide people in the community (an opportunity) to get out and enjoy themselves,” he said. “We just wanted to show people what there is in Urbana.”

Stunkard said he wanted Champaign-Urbana residents to relax and experience the downtown area. He said he describes the city of Urbana as a “place where you can come to live, work, shop and play,” which is one of the mottos of the association.

While about 90 people usually attend the Cherry Jam Festival, there can be as few as 80 and as many as 120 residents jamming out to the event, he added. Stunkard said his favorite part of the festival is “being able to see families return every week.”

Debra Lissak, executive director of The Urbana Free Library, said the festival aims to connect the library traffic with people who attend the festival. She said businesses in downtown Urbana stay open later on Friday nights, benefiting residents who attend the event. She added that the weather was the main deterrent keeping people from coming out to the Cherry Jam festival this past Friday.

“We’ve had bigger crowds than this,” Lissak said. “It’s the heat that’s kept people away.”

John Coppess, local performer, said he will play his guitar in August at this summer’s Cherry Jam Festival. Coppess said he has been performing around town for the past three years and playing guitar for the past 40 years.

He said he wants community residents to understand the emotional breadth of and narrative thread beneath his music.

“I hope that they can both feel the emotion I’m trying to create in a song and the story I’m trying to tell,” Coppess said.

Bob Vaiden, of Urbana, said he likes the sound of the festival’s music.

“I just stumbled across it a little while ago. Came here on a mission to get some books — just thought I’d stop for a while and listen,” he said.

He said his favorite places in Urbana are the library, The Iron Post, the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings and the bookstore.

“I like downtown Urbana and the way they fixed up what they call Cherry Alley,” Vaiden said. “I’m going to have to try and remember that they have these events so I get here earlier.”