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Sister of Ritchie Valens coming to Cochran Weekend

Published 11:41am Thursday, June 6, 2013

In honor of Eddie Cochran Weekend, a music star’s sister will come to Albert Lea to honor Cochran and celebrate the music. Connie Valens, younger sister of 1950s rocker Ritchie Valens, will be in Albert Lea on Friday and Saturday for the 27th annual Eddie Cochran Days.

The mothers of Cochran and Valens were friends, and when Ritchie died in a plane crash in 1959 near Clear Lake, Iowa, at the young age of 17 and Cochran died in a car accident in 1960 at age 21 in England they became even closer.

Valens said her being in town is an honor and will help people remember the two musicians.

“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to come, share and celebrate Eddie’s legacy and his music,” Valens said.

Valens said she gets invitations to make appearances at events and usually she says no, but because this one was in Cochran’s honor she said yes.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’” Valens said. “I never thought I’d be doing anything for Eddie Cochran.”

Valens will attend the weekend events and encouraged people to stop and visit with her.

Valens isn’t only attending the festivities, she will be taking part in them, too. She will sing with Denny Charnecki and the DC Drifters during Saturday’s concert at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, present trophies at the car show and socialize over root beer floats at the Freeborn County Historical Museum.

Saturday’s concert will feature the music of Cochran and Valens and begins at 7:30 p.m.

“Am I Ritchie Valens when I sing?” Connie said. “Heck no, but I will do my best to make it good.”

Besides the concert the other events planned as usual include a car show and cruise, cruise-in social, swap meet, rock ‘n’ roll worship, walk/run for hospice and the Freeborn County Historical Museum will have its Eddie Cochran and Marion Ross exhibits open.

Trophies will be awarded at the cruise-in social on Friday for “Oldie but Goodie,” “People’s Choice” and “Long Distance.” Awards will be given out at the car show on Saturday for Top 25 Car Show Awards, Mayor’s Choice, Freeborn County Historical Museum Choice, Albert Lea Convention & Visitors Bureau Choice, Riverland Auto Tech Choice, and new this year, the top five cars as chosen by spectators. In conjunction with the car show there will be vendors, concessions and a record show under the Grandstand at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds.

Participants and spectators should take note that the 12-mile car cruise route has been modified this year because of the construction on Broadway. It will go through Edgewater Park. It leaves from and returns to the fairgrounds. Check the car cruise map for the exact route.

The 20th Eddie Cochran print by local artist Eloise Adams will be on display at the cruise-in social, car show and Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. Following the weekend the prints will be available at Adams Originals, 238 S. Broadway Ave., in Albert Lea. The prints are hand-numbered and signed by the artist, and a limited number are available. This year’s print includes a profile image of Cochran, the museum’s new addition, song lyrics, a poem and the business community during Cochran’s time in Albert Lea.

Albert Lea has celebrated Eddie Cochran Weekend honoring the Albert Lea native who toured the United States as a country music performer in the 1950s. He made the move to rock ‘n’ roll with his “Sitting on the Balcony” hit in 1957, which sold more than 1 million copies.

Other Cochran hits include “Summertime Blues,” C’mon Everybody,” “Something Else” and “Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie.”

Cochran was born Oct. 3, 1938, in Albert Lea.

Proceeds from the weekend will go to the Freeborn County Historical Museum’s building fund. The museum has been designated by the Cochran family as a permanent depository for Eddie Cochran memorabilia.

Valens said she hopes people will get out and enjoy the festivities so they don’t kick themselves later for not going.

“Get yourself in the mood,” Valens said. “The music puts a little extra bounce in your step, so let’s bounce this weekend people. Even if it’s just in our seats.”