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The Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans: Best Fest Ever!

By Jude Southerland Kessler
author of The John Lennon Series

If you're a Beatles fan (and why are you reading this if you're not?) and if you've never been to one of Mark and Carol Lapdios's Fests for Beatles Fans, WHAT are you waiting for? This is a literal MUST SEE.

The Chicago Fest, which concluded last night, was the best show to date, and with each fest they keep getting better and better. The roster of "stars" was impressive. Ken Scott spoke about his years at Abbey Road (EMI) working with George Martin, Geoff Emerick and The Lads. Freda Kelly colorfully reminisced about her years with John, Paul, George, and Ritchie ("I have to remind myself to say Ringo," she told me). And Laurence Juber attacked his Wings lead guitar in a set Saturday night that had the entire hotel raving about his mad skills all day Sunday.

Year after year, Mark Hudson continues to raise the bar with his performance during the Saturday evening concert. Backed by the talents of "Liverpool" and ably assisted by the stunning work of Pig Light Show (BRAVO!!!), the Hudson performance is the highlight of the weekend. Once again this year, the Lennon montage and spine-tingling rendition of "Working Class Hero" had audiences standing for an ovation that bordered on Beatlemania.

Jude Southerland Kessler at the 2012 Chicago Fest For Beatles Fans

But the weekend isn't all rockin' n' rollin'. The panel of distinguished authors that the Lapidos family had recruited for the 2012 Fest was impressive: Beatles' music scholar, Bruce Spizer; Liverpool author and originator, Dave Bedford; Beatles' experts and authors Robert Rodriguez and Kit O'Toole; Beatles solo singles author Andrew Grant Jackson, Beatles fan fiction editor, Susan Ryan, Beatles photographer and author, Jorie Gracon, and yours truly, Jude Southerland Kessler, gathered on Friday night for a panel discussion on the main stage with Hall of Fame DJ and Emcee, Terri Hemmert. Then, throughout the weekend, the authors gave fascinating presentations on Beatles albums, history, influences, and trends. At any given moment, three or four different seminars were being offered throughout the hotel.

The appeal to children has also been emphasized at current festivals. There is a Beatles parade, the Bob Abdou puppet show, an arts and banner-making room, and plenty of sing-alongs and family dances. The hotel is filled with children and teens, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and plenty of Baby Boomers. This year, the crowd was IMMENSE! (ComicCon was going on just across the street, and many Batmen and Superwomen also made it to The Fest as well!)

Jude Southerland Kessler and Sean Ward

One of the newcomers to Fest 2012 was Canadian comic strip author, Sean Ward, whose new beautifully illustrated comic book, Tomorrow Never Knows was winging its way off the sales table and into homes across the U.S. Ward, who is young, witty, and good-looking had his own bevy of "Seanettes" throughout the weekend, but his art alone would have been enough to attract a group of devoted followers. It is remarkable.

Ward's work, in fact, has been highly praised by Ron Campbell who said, "If we were going to animate The Beatles today, THIS is how we'd draw them." Ward confided that in 2007, he was tired of seeing The Beatles drawn as Marvel heroes, so he revived the look and feel of the Yellow Submarine era and began his book. Tomorrow Never Knows traces the life of The Beatles from Shea Stadium forward - the psychedelic era, as Ward put it - and focuses on their relationship with each other during that highly creative but personally volatile time. To enjoy Sean's excellent work and to order his book, go to

If you missed the Fest this weekend, you missed meeting Georgina Flood, the gorgeous and insanely gifted artist from Dublin, Ireland whose original, elegant charcoal Beatles portraits will take your breath away!

You also missed seeing the insightful and amazing Beatles portrait artist, Eric Cash, at work! You can see Eric's work online here.

And, you also missed hearing Larry Marrion talk about the book he has published sharing the Bob Bonis collection of lost Beatles and Rolling Stones photographs with the world. Visit this page for more info.

Finally, you missed the "Sneak Preview" of the third book in the John Lennon series, She Loves You. You can get a sample online here.

But if you start making plans now (reservations go very, very quickly!), you can take part in the weekend-long celebration of The Beatles and the art, music, literature, and scholarship at the New Jersey Fest for Beatles Fans in March 2013. For more info, go to

Don't put this on a bucket list. Do it!!! It is a helluva wonderful three days.

Published August 13, 2012

This article is Copyright © 2012, The Author, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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