PEORIA — Bob Hope, Huey Lewis and the News, Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys — there's no shortage of big-time music acts that have populated the Heart of Illinois Fair entertainment stage. But on Friday night, a wholly unique musical act will take that stage to entertain fairgoers — a band composed of teenagers from all over the Peoria area.

Meet The Blank Stairs: Cami Procter of Richwoods High School on guitar, keyboard and vocals; Josh Sweeney, a recent graduate of Washington Community High School, on bass guitar; Lily Nelson of Dunlap High School on rhythm guitar and vocals; Kelan Grimm of Morton High School on the guitar; and Abbey Haste of Princeville High School on the drums.

The band formed during the early stages of 2017, an assemblage that started at the Academy of Fretted Instruments in Morton and ended with a trip to Princeville. At first, The Blank Stairs had no drummer, rehearsing and playing as a quartet without percussion.

But their big break came when Procter found a "battle of the bands" competition in Princeville. As it turned out, the competition wasn't that daunting for the teenagers.

"The thing about that — no one else entered," Sweeney said. "So it was a Battle of the Band."

It became their first paid gig, said Procter. "We were all so excited."

But the trip to Princeville was fruitful in multiple ways — while watching a talent contest that same day, The Blank Stairs spotted Haste putting on a show of her own on the drums and xylophone. They asked her to join and gave her a phone number, and she joined a few weeks later.

Having moved on from the academy, the band began practicing extensively, adding new cover songs to its repertoire and crafting the occasional original song. Open mics around the area were a haven for further practice and tinkering.

Their youthfulness sometimes surprises the audience. Someone will look up expecting a much older cadre of musicians, only to find a group of teenagers giving soaring renditions of familiar songs. It's a common refrain reported to The Blank Stairs after shows.

Another unique attribute of the band is the mixture of both genders. Instead of an all-male or all-female group, or even an all-male band with a female vocalist, The Blank Stairs has three girls and two boys. Most of the band said that it wasn't something they thought about much, but Procter did use it as an opportunity to subvert her own expectations.

"When we were looking for a drummer, and when I always thought of a drummer, you automatically think of a dude," Procter said. "And when I found out that we have an awesome girl drummer, it was like, 'whoa.'"

The gigs have slowly grown in prominence over the past year, with the band consistently finding paid concerts at a variety of community events. The HOI Fair marks the most prominent of those stages, and their Friday night slot will provide The Blank Stairs with a broader audience than normal.

But the band is ready to rise to the occasion. Instead of the 14-song set that normally makes up its shows, the HOI Fair will see a 24-song set featuring four original songs, a couple of instrumentals and cover songs from just about every decade since the 1960s.

"I feel like we've learned a song every two days for the past few weeks," Nelson said. "We've been cramming."

The practice has been extensive this summer, and there are some nerves ahead of the show — but mostly the good kind.

"The conditions are just different down in the basement instead of out in public," Procter said. "So I do worry whenever we debut something new."

Sweeney doesn't let nerves get in the way.

"You can't be scared to fail," he said. "You just have to take it on."

Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or tbruch@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.

If you go

What: The Blank Stairs at the Heart of Illinois Fair.

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 20.

Where: Exposition Gardens.

Cost: Admission to the fair is $10 for adults 13 and older and $5 for children between the age of six and 12. HOI Fair concerts are free.