BLAIR, NEBRASKA (2023 AUGUST 31) – In the heart of Blair, Nebraska, on the sprawling Dana College campus, a festival is brewing that’s unlike any other. With the picturesque surroundings as its backdrop, the Highway 91 Music Fest is ready to host its 6th annual celebration, featuring the blues harmonica maestro Brandon Santini as its headliner. But what sets this festival apart in a crowded landscape of music events? The answer lies in the vision of its founder, Bob Morrison.
The Mission Behind The Music
“I enjoy live music and see live music usually 2 or 3 times a week. I had always thought it would be fun to start my own festival,” says Bob, a lifelong music lover who turned his passion into a philanthropic endeavor. His festival’s mission has never wavered: “Try to book the best groups available on a local, regional, and national level and give all the profits back to the community.”
A Pioneering Pivot
The festival’s history has seen its share of transformative moments. Originally started as a purely blues-based event, it has now evolved to include various genres to attract a diverse audience. Bob notes, “After the 1st year, I realized that I needed to mix in other genre’s to help capture a more diverse audience.” From bringing in a Beatles cover band that adds a bluesy twist to featuring the world’s best Johnny Cash tribute, Bob’s festival aims for a musical experience that is as inclusive as it is eclectic.
More Than Just Music: A Charitable Cause
But it’s not just about the music. Bob partnered with Angel’s Share Inc., a non-profit that helps at-risk youth and those aging out of the foster care system. “After seeing some of the things that Angel’s Share Inc has done for the youth who now call Blair home has been fun to watch,” he says, underscoring his festival’s community impact. “Helping kids steer the right direction, giving them role models…is truly fun to see.”
Overcoming Challenges: The Reality of Running a Festival
“Music festivals can be overwhelming to put on,” Morrison admits. Especially in the beginning, when Bob had to run the event in a town an hour away from his home. “One of the roughest things I faced my 1st 5 years is holding an event in a town an hour away from where I live.” His key to success? “Communication and accountability is key with anything in life; if you can’t communicate … it won’t work, no matter how hard you try,” he adds.
A Curated Experience
“Creating the next line-up each year starts almost immediately as my current event is completed,” says Bob, discussing the careful planning that goes into selecting performers. He adds, “I realize some of the bands I have playing at my festivals you have never heard of and that’s exactly the way I want it.” Bob aims to provide a platform for emerging musicians and offer a delightful surprise to his audience: “I want most of the audience to walk into the event saying they have never heard of the bands and walking out with a huge smile.”
The Festival Today: Growth and Local Impact
As for how the festival has evolved? “The festival has changed a bit every year in some way or another,” he says. And this year, things are particularly exciting: “This year is exciting for me because it will be the largest venue so far, so I can do so much more due to space.”
“The feedback I have gotten so far from the community so far has been great; mostly excitement and curiosity,” Bob comments, emphasizing how well the festival has been received. This year has also offered an opportunity to bring in local businesses through sponsorships. “For the most part, everyone I have talked with has contributed in one way or another.”
A Glimpse of the Future
When asked about the future of the festival, Bob shows unbridled enthusiasm: “Even though it’s in a new location, I love where the Highway 91 Music Festival is at in year 6. I’m excited about the ability to grow.”
Why You Should Attend
With a festival that delivers high-quality music, enriches the community, and offers an unexpected yet delightful experience, the Highway 91 Music Fest is not just another event—it’s a movement. “I know that everyone attending will leave with a smile on their face going home knowing they had a great time,” Morrison assures. And if the promise of good music, good food, and a good cause isn’t enough, let’s remember Bob’s words: “Knowing the profits are all going to a great charity is just a bonus.”
So mark your calendars for Saturday, September 2nd, pack your lawn chairs and coolers, and head to Dana College campus in Blair, Nebraska. Be a part of an event where every ticket purchased is a step toward a better community and every beat resonates with the power of positive change.