JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jazz Festival returned this holiday weekend with a lineup of award-winning performers and some new venue locations.
The festival, which is one of the largest free jazz events in the country, runs through Sunday in venues across downtown Jacksonville.
The Swingin’ Stage, presented by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, has been moved from the corner of Main and West Adams streets to the front lawn of the Duval County Courthouse.
The Groovin’ Stage, presented by Jacksonville Acura Dealers, returns to Hemming Park, and the Breezin’ Stage is now located at the corner of Adams and Main streets.
TRAFFIC: Jazz Festival road closures
“We are so fortunate to have one of the region’s signature events right here in our city, attracting thousands near and far,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. "The Jazz Fest is a prime contributor to the momentum that our thriving performing arts and culture industry is enjoying downtown.”
The festival kicked off Thursday at the Florida Theatre with the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, presented by Keyboard Connection Piano & Organs. The competition featured five finalists chosen by a blind panel of judges.
The street festival opened Friday, with performances from 5:30 to 11 p.m.
On Saturday, the festival opens at 2 p.m. with performances from 3 to 11 p.m.
The final day of the festival, Sunday, opens at 2 p.m. with performances from 3 to 10 p.m.
"The best part is seeing friends, being able to reconnect with some of the people that you've grown up with," said Ira Turner with AARP, sponsor of the Jazz Fest. "It's good for the community because you get people out here and it's free."
The three-day-long festival features a number of award-winning artists including Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Sheila E., The Bad Plus, Euge Groove, The Pete Escovedo Orchestra with special guests Jimmy Bosch and Chembo Corneil, Ulysses Owens Jr. Trio, The 4 Korners, Grace Kelly, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque and Lohai. The lineup will also include local favorites such as The Chris Thomas Band, UNF Jazz Ensemble and the Douglas Anderson Jazz Ensemble 1.
Other festival activities include the Omni Sacred Jazz Brunch featuring the Noel Freidline Quartet with vocalist Maria Howell, the Jazz Clinic, the Second Line Jazz Parade, the Jazz Marketplace and the Official Jazz Store.
Some people traveled across several state lines, and some have even moved to the area, because they love the music and the mood.
Linda and AJ Miles said they came down from the Atlanta area because they were invited by friends to spend the weekend with them and enjoy some great music in downtown Jacksonville.
On Friday night, News4Jax spoke with several attendees who warmly explained their attraction to the event, even if they needed to travel from out of town.
"I've got friends that came out from Miami," said Janice Vinson, a Gainesville resident. "I just want to have fun and enjoy the whole weekend and what better way to do that than with friends from all over."
Attendees are able to enhance their festival experience with all-new enhanced VIP package options. Information regarding festival details, VIP packages and more can be found at JaxJazzFest.com.
Jazz Fest After Dark returns for sixth year
Additionally, Jazz Fest After Dark returns Friday and Saturday with live music beginning at 6 p.m. at numerous locations throughout downtown Jacksonville.
Throughout Jacksonville, 13 stages will host more than 20 performances. Headliners include Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Groove Coalition, Tropic of Cancer, LPT and Mama Blue.
Venues include 1904 Music Hall, Bold City Brewery and Cowford Chophouse.
For more information and to view the full schedule, visit JazzFestAfterDark.com.
Skyway to operate under extended hours
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority Skyway will operate under extended hours for the 2018 Jazz Festival, according to the JTA.
On Friday, the Skyway will be open 6 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. On Saturday, it will be open 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. On Sunday, it will be open 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
During the festival, bicycles, coolers and double-wide baby strollers will not be permitted on the trains.
The Skyway trains will not service the Convention Center station during the festival. The stations at Rosa Parks, Hemming Park, Central, Jefferson, San Marco, Riverplace and Kings Avenue will still be serviced.
The Skyway will also be closed on Monday in observance of Memorial Day.