Hit it! Why Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi are heading to Joliet Prison this weekend
For years, officials at the Old Joliet Prison have heard the same refrain from fans of "The Blues Brothers."
"How cool would it be to get Dan Aykroyd here?" said Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum that manages the prison.
That cool moment arrives at 9:30 p.m. Friday, when Aykroyd and Wheaton native Jim Belushi take the stage in the prison yard for the headline performance of a two-day event dubbed Blues Brothers Con.
The event features a series of blues and gospel music acts for two days and concludes Saturday night with a showing of "The Blues Brothers" movie.
Among those coming for the weekend are Tom "Bones" Malone and Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, trombonist and guitarist from the Blues Brothers band in the movie, and Judy Belushi, widow of John Belushi, who co-starred in the movie with Aykroyd.
Judy Belushi "was one of the early people who helped us envision this event," Peerbolte said. And Aykroyd and Belushi wanted to be part of it.
"We've told them how much this event means to the community, and they understand that," he said. "They get it."
The movie was a motivating factor in the movement to open up the closed prison to tours and events, Peerbolte said, because so many people traveling into Joliet wanted to see what they called "the Blues Brothers prison."
The prison opened in 1858 and has a storied place in American cinema and television.
But its use as the setting for the opening scene of the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers" -- when Joliet Jake, played by Jim Belushi's late brother John, is released from prison and picked up by Elwood Blues, played by Aykroyd -- has been driving tourists to Joliet for years.
It doesn't hurt that Joliet is a stop on historic Route 66 tours, which are taken by people across the U.S. and other parts of the world. But the prison has been the main Joliet attraction, Peerbolte said.
"People from all over the world wanted to come to the Blues Brothers prison," he said.
The city has leased the former Joliet Correctional Center since late 2017. The prison had been virtually abandoned by the state since it closed in 2002, but the city and museum, aided by volunteers, cleaned up the prison property and have opened portions of it for tours and events.
That worldwide recognition is being felt with Blues Brothers Con, Peerbolte said.
"We have people from as far away as the United Kingdom coming specifically for this," he said.
More than 4,000 tickets priced at $60 have been sold. Sales will be capped at 5,000.
Peerbolte said tickets likely will be available at the gate, but they are going fast.
"Most of our hotels are already sold out in Joliet," said Dan Scott, vice president of Operations for Posh Hospitality, which has five hotels in Joliet.
Details of the event, including how to get tickets, where to park and the two-day schedule of performers, can be found on the Old Joliet Prison website, jolietprison.org. The event starts at 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Saturday.