Old Joliet Prison to host 40th-anniversary party for “Blues Brothers” movie

The Old Joliet Prison, now converted into a tourism site, in Joliet, Illinois, will host a big bash in August to mark the 40th anniversary of “The Blues Brothers” movie, part of which was originally filmed there.

The Herald-News, based in Joliet, reported the celebration will be a two-day event. Final dates aren’t 100% set, but Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, told the newspaper that Aug. 21-22 is “pretty firm” for the event.

The newspaper added:

Plans so far include a showing of the movie, Blues Brothers tribute bands, and a replica of the country music stage where Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues were protected by chicken wire while singing the blues to an unappreciative audience.
“We’re going to do a Bob’s Country Bunker stage,” said Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which organizes tours and events at the former Joliet Correctional Center. […]
The festival will double as the major annual fundraiser for prison restoration, and organizers have high hopes of bringing Dan Akroyd, who played Elwood Blues in the movie, to the event.
“If we do get Dan Akroyd, you’re going to hear me screaming from the museum,” Peerbolte told the Joliet City Council Prison Committee this week while discussing plans for the event.

The country-music stage referred to in the article comes from this now-classic scene in the movie:

I doubt they’ll let festival-goers launch beer bottles at the band, though.

If you can’t make it to the festival, the prison hosts regular tours for fees ranging from $20 to $50 — the latter is a four-hour tour in the morning light for photos “with supervised access to the prison yard and predesignated buildings.” The other tours are 90 minutes. (It’s wise to book ahead of time; tickets often sell out weeks in advance.)

More about the tours here:

Joliet Correctional Center’s distinctive limestone walls were built in 1858, and the state of Illinois closed it in 2004. The city of Joliet signed a five-year lease with the state in December 2017 to use the prison. The facility needs about $10 million in repairs for stabilization, according to an engineering firm.

The city seeks to eventually open a hotel, restaurants and gift shops in the prison grounds. The prison remains a popular photo-op for Route 66 travelers.

The prison has been used in many film and television productions over the years, but it remains best-known for the opening scene of “The Blues Brothers.”

The old Joliet Correctional Center shouldn’t be confused with Stateville Correctional Center, which sits in nearby Crest Hill, Illinois, along Illinois 53 (aka Route 66) and still is being used for its original purpose.

“The Blues Brothers” movie, directed by John Landis, was meant to capitalize on the duo’s success on “Saturday Night Live” and their albums. The star-crossed film went way over budget at $30 million, but it grossed more than $115 million worldwide and remains a touchstone to many Chicago residents for its multiple scenes shot there.

The film also is notable for terrific music performances from James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker and Cab Calloway. It also doesn’t hurt the Blue Brothers also boast numerous members of Booker T and the MGs in their band.

(Image of the east gate of the Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, by Jacobsteinafm via Wikimedia Commons)

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