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My First Jazz Fest


The month of May is usually a super busy month for me at my 9-5, so, I was excitedly looking forward to a few days away. I made plans in February to visit my favorite uncle and his wife in Jacksonville, FL on Memorial Day weekend to attend the annual Jazz Festival. I’ve been to Jacksonville a million times, yet I had never attended Jazz Fest.

Here is a bit of history on the Jacksonville Jazz Fest:

-It began October 24, 1980 and was known as Mayport and All that Jazz Festival.

-It moved to Metropolitan park on October 24, 1980.

-Miles Davis headlined the festival October 25, 1986.

-On October 21, 1995, a $5 admission fee was implemented.

-Due to financial reasons, the festival was not held in 2001 or 2002.

-The Jazz Festival returned, and Tony Bennett was the headliner on October 23, 2003.

-Kenny G and Herbie Hancock headline on October 21, 2006 and an admission fee returns.

-Jazz fest moves to the downtown area and is re-imaged as a street festival and now includes educational experiences, art vendors, talks. The festival is now held in May beginning in2009 and there is no admission fee charged.

Jazz Fest was held this year from May 24-27 with performances and activities held on each day. It begins on that Thursday with a piano competition held at the Florida Theater. On Friday, the festival had live music at three different stages that are within walking distance of each other. The Swingin’ Stage was set up at the courthouse is considered the “main stage” for headlining performances. The Groovin’ Stage was located at Hemming Park and the Breezin’ Stage was set up on Main Street. Performances started at 5pm and ended at 11pm. A few of the local downtown clubs/bars hosted Jazz after dark from 2pm-11pm on Saturday and from 2pm-10pm on Sunday.

A few of the headlining acts this year were Shelia E., Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Dianne Reeves. VIP tickets were available and a few of the perks included up front exclusive seating, reserved parking, food and beverages, and climate-controlled restrooms.

I made it to Jacksonville on Friday afternoon around 2pm. It’s about a four-hour drive for me. My uncle, his wife and I all headed downtown around 7:30pm. We started at the Breezin’ Stage, walked over to the Groovin’ Stage, then headed over to the Swingin’ Stage. I checked the weather earlier that week and rain was expected the entire weekend. Friday ended up being a clear and beautiful day which made navigating around the festival that much easier. We then headed over to the Jacksonville Landing. The landing is no longer a part of the annual Jazz Fest, yet they had live entertainment as well as vendors selling different types of items ranging from clothing, jewelry, and food. We spent some time at the landing enjoying the live band as well as some seafood. I must admit that I was expecting a seafood boil, yet that wasn’t the case. The food was still decent. This ended our first night there.










On Saturday night, we ended up arriving downtown around 7pm. Once again, the weather held up for us which was a blessing! Shelia E. was performing this evening. As a lover of late 80s music, her performance was a treat! I truly enjoyed the set. We stayed to watch a little bit of the performance by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s before calling it a night!

Trombone Shorty was the headliner on Sunday and my uncle really wanted to see this performance. It rained on Sunday. A LOT!! Fortunately, the rain stopped by the time we made it downtown. We made it there around 7pm. We were able to catch the entire set with no rain! I was not familiar with Trombone shorty or his music, yet I became a fan that night. The set was AMAZING!!!

I honestly was not familiar with a lot of the acts in the line up for Jazz Fest. I do however love live music, so I truly enjoyed Jazz Fest and I enjoyed being with my family. Jazz Fest in Jacksonville will become an annual event for me!





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