Corey Dennison to headline 2016 Paxton Swine 'N' Dine BBQ Contest & Festival

PAXTON — Corey Dennison popped by The Humble Hog in downtown Paxton for dinner last Friday, ordering “a little bit of everything” on the menu, the barbecue joint’s owner, Ben Grice, said.

“It was to the point that other tables were looking at him,” Grice said. “It was pretty impressive. He can definitely eat some barbecue.”

After dinner, when Dennison was chatting with Grice outside, they worked out a deal to bring Dennison back to Paxton in about five months.

And this time, it won’t be just to eat.

Dennison, a blues musician, agreed to be the headlining act for the fifth annual Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine BBQ Contest & Festival, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17, in downtown Paxton.

Grice, who organizes the annual barbecue cookoff and festival, said he is “extremely lucky” to secure a commitment from Dennison, especially since Dennison signed a record deal with Chicago-based Delmark Records — “the biggest blues label” in the U.S., Grice said — shortly after headlining last year’s festival in downtown Paxton.

“There’s really no way we should be able to afford him at this point,” Grice said. “He’s booked solidly. He even has a new album on the Billboard charts.”

The festival, Grice said, is meant to introduce people to downtown Paxton and create new friendships and bonds of trust with the people of Paxton. Dennison is the “perfect example” of how the festival’s goals can work, Grice said.

“He’s up there in Chicago, and yet he’s thinking about Paxton, so that’s pretty impressive,” Grice said.

Grice said details of the festival’s itinerary will be unveiled “pretty soon” to the public. Grice said that one thing is certain: “We’re definitely adding more things to it.”

“Being Year 5, we definitely want to make a splash,” Grice said. “Corey’s got some tricks up his sleeve, as well. He filled me in on a couple of surprises he’s going to bring to the show.”

In addition to Dennison, there will be several other bands performing. Grice is in the process of lining them up.

“We’re going to stick primarily with blues this year,” Grice noted, adding that a Champaign-based blues band, The Kilborn Alley Blues Band, may make a return after performing at the festival last year.
“Corey’s hoping they do it again. He enjoyed them last year,” Grice said. “I hope they do, too. They were awesome last year.”

Dennison, a native of Tennessee who now lives in Michigan City, Ind., has gained a national following since he started the Corey Dennison Blues Band in 2013. When Grice saw Dennison perform at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago last summer, Grice knew Dennison would be the perfect act to headline the fourth annual Paxton Swine ‘N’ Dine last September.

Dennison and the other three musicians in his band play a traditional Chicago blues style.

The Corey Dennison Blues Band debuted in Chicago in early 2013, performing on the stages  of Buddy Guy’s Legends, Rosa’s and Leroy’s Hot Stuff. Later that year, the band released its first album, “Live in Chicago,” which sold almost 1,000 copies with “no help from a record label,” Dennison said.

In the past few years, Dennison has played across the nation — and beyond. Two years ago, his band was featured on the Chicago-area PBS television show “Buddy Guy’s Legends Presents The Chicago Blues.” Dennison’s band also has spent time performing on cruise ships in the Caribbean and eastern Mediterranean.

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