by Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
After drawing a capacity crowd the Stephanie H. Weill Center of the Performing Arts in Sheboygan in March 2020, Beatles tribute band BritBeat will return to cap off the two-part 2021 Unity Music Festival to benefit the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund on Saturday, Nov. 6.
For the first time in its 17-year run, this year’s Unity Music Festival has included a pair of concerts with the first show featuring Casi Joy from season 12 of “The Voice” television show held on Oct. 2 at the Sheboygan Lutheran Fine Arts Center in Sheboygan.
BritBeat is now set to take the spotlight on the big stage the Stephanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6.
Belgium resident Jon Bolker assumed the reins of the Unity Music Festival in 2000 from UMF founder and organizer Mary Ann Waldbauer, who founded the cancer care fundraiser in 2005 and retired from the role following the 2019 event.
“We sold out the Weill Center with BritBeat for the last Unity Music Festival that was held on March 7, 2020, just a few days before COVID-19 really hit and everything shut down,” Bolker said. “We were able to raise $30,000 for the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund during last year’s show, which was awesome and a great way to start my run as the organizer of the show.”
Bolker is thrilled to have the opportunity to bring BritBeat back to perform during the Unity Music Festival for the the second straight year.
According to Bolker, BritBeat is set to bring a fun-filled evening of hit-laden Beatles music to the Weill Center stage.
“Along with doing a spot-on live performance of all the popular Beatles songs, BritBeat takes you through a historic journey of the Beatles with a well-choreographed multi-media presentation all while making six costume changes,” Bolker said. “They truly sound just like the Beatles. In fact, a few years back BritBeat performed live to 40,000 fans at US Cellular Field featuring Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles.”
Bolker, who founded and operates Shop Your Bank and Medical Parts International, said a major driving force behind his interest in taking over the Unity Music Festival is his close, personal connection to the devastating impact of cancer.
“I watched both my mother and sister battle cancer most of my childhood,” Bolker said. “My mom passed when she was only 43, I was only 8. My sister too battled the disease very early on in her life, eventually passing at 35. This cause is something that really hits home for me.
“The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund [SCCCF.org] is a very worthwhile organization that does so much good for the people in the community battling cancer and blood related illnesses,” he said. “I just knew when I first went to Mary Ann’s last Unity Music Festival show as organizer in 2019 that I must not let this special event end.
“Knowing that the money raised through this event directly goes to families and people battling this disease made it even more meaningful to me.”
The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions by the public are fully tax-deductible.
Established in 2000, The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund is the brainchild of local medical oncologist, H. Marshall Matthews, who recognized the need to help cancer patients through their cancer journey.
The Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund since it was founded has been responsible for assisting Sheboygan area residents struggling with cancer to the tune of 1.5 million dollars.
Through the efforts of Mary Ann Waldbauer during the first 15 years and Bolker in 2020, the Unity Music Festival has been responsible for raising close to half a million dollars that has directly benefited the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund.