Styf: Rise Up's 'Splash into Country' lineup a sign of big things happening in McHenry

Brantley Gilbert. Eli Young Band.

I don't know much about country music, but I know those names. And I know there's more to come when the full lineup is announce for the new Rise Up Foundation's two-day music festival set for McHenry's Petersen Park on June 19-20.

Former Chicago Bear Zach Miller, I've certainly heard of him and he was one of the presenters at Shaw Media's Most Valuable Athletes awards at Northern Illinois' Convocation Center last year.

The event is a few weeks before Fiesta Days, so there will be plenty to do this summer in McHenry, which gets me to my point here.

Since Wayne Jett was elected mayor of McHenry in 2017, there have been plenty of positive changes in McHenry. Just drive down Green Street and you'll see it.

It's not just Jett, he's the first to admit it, but he's been the instigator of a lot of things. He's not afraid to think outside of the box and he's not afraid to get fully immersed in something he believes in, like having more entertainment options for families in the city.

Last year, McHenry put up a referendum for $30 million in bonds to improve its recreation center with everything from an indoor pool to a family aquatic center. Taxpayers voted it down.

So this year, Jett and his wife Amber started a 501(c)3 call the Rise Up Foundation to provide funding for projects specifically focused on enhancing the quality of life for children and their families in McHenry.

And it all starts this summer, when the two-day concert event with a country night headlined by Gilbert and the Eli Young Band puts 100 percent of the money it makes toward development of a family “splash pad.” If you have kids, you know how cool those can be in the summer at area parks.

The amazing part is how well Jett has been able to rally businesses and the community for the cause. The Northwest Herald is one of a long list of sponsors of the event.

He's done this in his sometimes overlapping roles as mayor, private businessman and now as leader of a non-profit. Which takes me back to Green Street and the McHenry Riverwalk and all the projects and new events going on in the city.

Things are happening and Jett seems to be near the center of a lot of it. In the spots where they aren't happening, he applies pressure around places such as McHenry Commons.

"We all know there has been a lot happening in McHenry over the last few years, please understand that it’s not just my vision or leadership that gets these things done," Jett wrote on Facebook this week. "I honestly have a staff that knows what our priorities are and works tirelessly until that opportunity comes to fruition."

Jett has people excited about McHenry. So excited that, for the second straight year, his State of the City speech sold out and he now plans to hold two of them.

Not bad for less than three years in office.

• Northwest Herald Editor Jon Styf can be reached at or 815-526-4630.

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