Jazz Festival kicks off downtown after year hiatus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jazz Festival returned to downtown Jacksonville after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a one-year hiatus.

The event will take place at two different stages, including Riverfront Plaza and at Bay Street, featuring artists from around the world.

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”To be able to listen to live music, be in person, and have that comradery again,” Paola Lorenzo, with the City of Jacksonville, said. “And share it right on the river with a beautiful view.”

The event kicked off with performances Friday starting at 4 p.m. and continuing until 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

This year’s Jazz Festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a bang Saturday night. Fireworks will light up the sky over Riverfront Plaza.

While the focus is jazz music, Lorenzo pointed out all arts will be present — including vendors and food, which suffered a difficult year during the pandemic.

MBellish by CharMega is one of the vendors set up at Riverfront Plaza. The owner, Charletta Green-McCoy, said she took a financial hit during the pandemic and is happy to be back.

”It put a little hit on us financially. But we’re coming back,” Green-McCoy said. “It’s so exciting! I’ve been up the past three days. I’m tired. But I’m a good tired because I was preparing for the event.”

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The event draws in hundreds and while vendors are from around the world, some have roots right in Jacksonville.

The Croker is a graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

“I actually went to school with this guy — I was in band with him at Douglas Anderson,” Alex Deas said while she watched from the lawn at Bay Street.

This year will have a bag check and is gated, but still free for attendees. Vendors all have cashless options.