JazzFest moves Iowa City again


Ting Xuan Tan

FILE – In this file photo Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band performs during the Iowa City Jazz Festival in downtown Iowa City, Saturday, July 2, 2016. The Iowa City Jazz Festival is a yearly event, free for the general public. (The Daily Iowan/Ting Xuan Tan)

By Quentin Yarolem

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Sunday night, as the fireworks lit up the central Iowa City sky the evening before Independence Day, the 26th-annual Iowa City Jazz Festival came to an end.

JazzFest — consistently one of the town’s most popular events — attracted nearly 30,000 people to the music-filled downtown streets.

“This is my second JazzFest,” said attendee Jeff Rickerl. “The atmosphere [is what I like best]. Everybody is just really happy because of the music and the great food.”

The block of Iowa Avenue leading to the Old Capitol is known for the weekend as Culinary Row, a place in which the air is a concoction of barbecue smoke and semi-breathable oxygen. Vendors sell everything from fried Pop-Tarts to gourmet grilled cheeses.

“It’s really fun,” said Amanda Kane, a worker at the funnel-cake stand. “You get to see everyone in the community here. It’s cool just getting to interact with the different people.”

Clinton Street hosted the Children’s Fun Zone, where children could get their faces painted, play a round of mini-golf, or purchase giant balloon-made rabbit masks.

“I enjoy helping out with the community and giving back,” volunteer Patty Britt said. She has volunteered at the festival three of the last five years and has done everything from first aid to the Children’s Zone.

The area had four stages: the Youth Stage on Iowa Avenue, the Local Stage on Clinton Street, the College Stage to the south on Clinton Street, and the Main Stage on the Pentacrest.

Jack Lion — a local neo-jazz band that incorporates an electronic sound with jazz — played the Local Stage twice on Sunday and ended up being a crowd favorite.

“Anytime you have a form of art in a culture like this, where there are just so many types of influences from different cultures, it’s going to syncretize,” said Jack Lion drummer Justin LeDuke. “I think we’ll continue to see jazz incorporate a lot of electronic elements.”

The festival finished with a performance by the legendary David Berkman and his sextet. Berkman is a New York transplant whose music has taken him many places in the world, including Brazil, Japan, and England.

Summer of the Arts is responsible for not only JazzFest but also the Friday Night Concert Series, the Free Movie Series, the Iowa Soul Festival, and the Iowa Arts Festival.

Lisa Barnes, the executive director of the organization, feels strongly about bringing art and culture to the community, especially the children.

“Young children have a thirst for knowledge and new experiences,” she said. “By introducing them to the arts at a young age, they can develop important skills and an appreciation of the arts.

“By providing diverse opportunities through performers, artists, and vendors, kids learn that although people may have differences, there are a lot of similarities, and coming together through the arts is a good way to start to understand other cultures.”

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