JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 2014 Jacksonville Jazz Festival kicks off Thursday evening with the Piano Competition, then three days of music begins across three downtown venues. But this year's festival is centered a few blocks east of where it has been held for the past several years and some downtown merchants are not happy about the change.\
The annual event attracts more than 100,000 visitors downtown for free music from a wide variety of artists. This year's top acts include Al Jarreau, Boney James, Ester Rada, TIZER featuring Karen Briggs, Marcus Johnson, Joey DeFrancesco, Traces of Blue, Marion Meadows and Paul Taylor, Average White Band, The Stooges Brass Band, Noel Friedline, Pedrito Martinez and Bobby Caldwell performing with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
Local favorites, Linda Cole and The Joshua Bowlus Quartet, Unique Sound, Tropic of Cancer, Akia Uwanda, Just Jazz Quartet, Jacksonville University Jazz Combo, The Jacksonville Jazz Collective, JB Scott Swingin' Allstars, and The Katz Downstairs.
Most festival concerts and events are free and open to the public.
"The Jazz Festival has long been one of Jacksonville's signature events," said Mayor Alvin Brown. "It's a growing tradition that gets bigger and better every year. This year promises to be the best ever."
The new Jacksonville Jazz Festival event footprint moves away from Hemming Plaza and closer to the river, with three stages along Bay Street from The Jacksonville Landing east to the Shipyards property east of Berkman Plaza.
David Lofton, the owner of Icon Boutique, says he could be out thousands of dollars because of the change.
"It's like the Super Bowl -- you wait for it because you know what it does," Lofton said. "This year it's not going to do it, and you know it."
Other business owners have mixed feelings.
"It'll be interesting how this Shipyards festival does for this area because we don't know what kind of business we're going to get," said Ron Chamblin of Chamblin's Bookmine.
Businesses located near the new stage locations are happy with the changes.
"I'm really excited. I mean, personally, it's going to benefit the restaurant," said Greg DeSanto, owner of Olio, located on Bay Street. "Moving the venue is great for people who are outside of downtown -- they can see different parts of downtown."
Setup work began Wednesday, and portions of Bay Street are already closed and more will close Thursday. The entire stretch of Bay Street from the sports complex to Ocean Street will be closed Friday through Sunday.
"There will be some significant delays in the detour route," said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Assistant Chief Leonard Proper.
Parking options for the festival include free street parking, as well as paid surface lots near Adams and Newnan streets, Ocean and Forsyth streets and The Jacksonville Landing, and Yates Garage. JTA will operate a free trolley shuttle from lots E, J, and K at EverBank Field. The fee to park at EverBank is $5.
For full schedule of events and details, visit JaxJazzFest.net.
The Jacksonville Jazz Festival is presented by AARP and runs from from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.