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- 2008 - January - 4th -

City officials: ignore rumors, Jazz Fest will go on

Max Marbut

A new year brings a new start with many people resolving to improve their lives or break bad habits. It can also be the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and set the record straight.

Theresa Price, chief of Special Events in the reorganized City government’s Recreation and Community Services Department, said no one understands that concept any better than she does.

“To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival have been greatly exaggerated,” said Price.

The demise of the annual celebration of America’s indigenous musical art form was one of the myriad of rumors flying around following the actions taken by the State Legislature in regards to property tax reform and the City’s new budget. The Jazz Festival was ripe for the rumor mill because the event always creates a deficit when expenses are tallied against the revenues. The bottom line for last year’s festival was a $500,000 loss.

“Budget cuts were across the board. Proportionally speaking, Special Events took a larger cut than other City divisions. But events are important to the quality of life and economic development,” said mayoral spokesperson Misty Skipper.

Price admitted when the new budget year began, it was obvious some events couldn’t continue based on a cost-benefit analysis.

“There will no longer be a Spring Musicfest and we won’t book national recording acts for the 4th of July celebration any more,” she said. “We’ll still produce the Sea & Sky Spectacular with the Blue Angels every other year when it’s at the beach. World of Nations will also continue just as it has for years.”

Skipper said the Jazz Festival was never on the chopping block and added, “When you look at the spectrum of events that take place during the year, the Jazz Festival is an event that attracts a wide range of attendees, both locals and visitors.”

The people who are tasked with promoting Jacksonville to the rest of the country and the world appreciate the value of having the annual Jazz Festival remain in the inventory.

“We sell Jacksonville as a musical destination,” said Lyndsay Rossman, director of corporate communications for Visit Jacksonville. “One of the things that makes our city such a great destination is our musical diversity, and it’s very beneficial when we’re trying to bring groups to Jacksonville to have the Jazz Festival because it’s such a signature event.”

There will be some changes for the 2008 edition of the Jazz Festival that’s set for April 11-13. Price said as a way to control the logistical expenses that are involved, all acts will perform at Metropolitan Park this year with the exception of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, which will remain at the Florida Theatre.

The wine tasting and art show will also remain elements of the festival this year. The Sunday Jazz Brunch was held last year at the Ritz Theatre. It sold out, so it will be held this year at Metropolitan Park where a larger venue can be provided.

Price also said the way the Jazz Festival will be marketed to the public will change this year. Sponsorships will remain a key component of the package, but plans are currently being worked out to hold smaller jazz-related events in March to raise awareness of the festival.

“We don’t have as much money to spend this year, so we’re getting more creative with the promotion side,” she said, then predicted, “I don’t envision there will be anyone who won’t know the Jazz Festival is coming.”

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