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Updated: Saturday, August 4, 2007 12:15 AM CDT 
Decatu's in love: Beatles tribute band opens 22nd Celebration with feeling |  digg | newsvine | facebook
DECATUR - "Paul, I love you!" came the cry from among the crowd gathered.

"We all feel the love tonight, don't we?" responded John Lennon.

Well, it wasn't really John Lennon or Paul McCartney, but it sure sounded like them.

American English, one of the most popular Beatles tribute bands, drew large crowds Friday evening as the first performance of the 22nd annual Decatur Celebration.

Aside from entertainment, Celebration's opening ceremonies included speeches, the singing of the national anthem and several awards given to community members. With the words "let the Celebration begin," Mayor Paul Osborne kicked off one of the largest free street festivals in Illinois.

Fred Puglia, Celebration producer and director, said he expects a record number of attendees this year.

"Everything is coming together well; there have been very, very few concerns," he said. "The secret to success in 22 years is with the right formula. We have successfully found the formula to entertain the Midwest."

With the opening ceremonies, attendees were able to celebrate the "formal kickoff" of the festival, Puglia said. Orv Graham, the first chairman of Decatur Celebration, hosted the ceremonies.

"The sights and sounds, tastes and smell: just wonderful what Celebration does for us," he said. "You see so many smiles at the Celebration."

And to introduce American English, Decatur Celebration had a surprise guest: Sam Leach, the original promoter of the Beatles, who called American English "without doubt, the finest Beatles tribute since the Beatles."

The band then kicked off with "Seventeen" and performed other classic songs such as "Please Please Me" and "Yellow Submarine."

Gertrude Cayton of Cerro Gordo said seeing American English was a huge draw for her, but she also attends the opening ceremonies every year.

"People have a good time," she said. "They come from all over the place, from all the small towns. It gives people a chance to get out and see some acts for free."

Decatur Celebration changes from year to year, Puglia said, but what doesn't change is its success.

"What I think pleases everyone is that there is something for everyone here," he said. "Hopefully, everyone will just enjoy themselves."

Courtney Klemm can be reached at or 421-6968.

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