By DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer
The Glendale Star
Councilmembers got an update on the revival of the Glendale Jazz and Blues Festival, a council item of special interest brought forth in March by Councilmember Jamie Aldama for possible council approval.
The event, which started in the 1980s, ran for 29 years before being eliminated in 2012 due to budget constraints. In the final year of production, it cost the city $158,000 and was a main item for discussion brought up at the Sept. 5 council workshop.
Four years after budget cuts forced the city to cancel it, the city council discussed at the Jan. 19 workshop the possibility of bringing back the festival in the near future.
Aldama originally requested in October 2015 that staff research the cost involved to bring the event back to life. The event was an award-winning festival that featured numerous national and local artists and food and crafts.
The event was held at Sahuaro Ranch Park for years, before moving to downtown Glendale, where it attracted thousands of fans every year.
“This is basically a follow-up to Councilmember Aldama’s original request on this item and we are looking for direction from council on the scope of what you want,” Director of Public Facilities, Recreation and Special Events Eric Strunk said. “Staff is looking to develop a business plan and bring back in January a final plan on who, what, when and where for this request.”
The event once was a two-day event held on two stages; one exclusively for jazz and one for blues, and averaged 21 bands, with four being national acts. Councilmember Bart Turner requested the possibility of two smaller events, one for jazz and one for blues, but council was not in favor of that suggestion.
“It used to be such a large event and former city staff said, and I agree, that we should start with a smaller, maybe community event, with high school bands and local jazz bands,” Aldama said. “I am asking for city staff to go out, research this and gain sponsorships, so the city can gain from permit fees and recoup any costs. I just would like to see the return for the 30th anniversary event when it restarts.”
Because the event cost the city $158,000 during its final year, councilmembers were looking for ways to offset costs with a possible sponsorship.
“I am all for the return of this event and can support it under one condition, that I don’t think the city should run this event,” Mayor Jerry Weiers said. “We should look at someone to hire to run it, or get sponsors, so it doesn’t cost the city.”
Weiers said, “I would love to see an outside business, or entity, to run this with city staff, to create a quality event that could bring in 40,000 people to downtown.”
Some of the performers showcased at the festival in the past were the Kenny Garrett Quartet, Bernard Allison Group, Marcia Bell, and Carmen Lundy.
Staff said one of the benefits of the events was that it extended the festival season into April and merchants have requested the return of the festival and the possible increase in traffic to the downtown area.
“I have talked to (Chamber of Commerce President Robert Heidt) and he said he ran a jazz festival back east and it was successful,” said Sahuaro District Councilmember Ray Malnar. “Maybe we should look at the chamber being part of this with the new downtown manager and, if they are up to it, city staff should involve the chamber in the discussion and if it fits their organizational operations, they could assist.”
Councilmembers gave staff consensus to move forward and are expecting an update in November on the progress and future funding for the return of the event.
Strunk said the process would be broken up into three phases, with the first phase to identify the possible concepts for the new festival and phase two establishing a formal business plan that will be brought back to council for review in late November or early December.
Final vote could be in January or February.