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July 16, 2013

Jazz Fest’s return delayed until 2014

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

The WJZZ Digital MotorCity Jazz Radio Smooth Jazz Fest that was scheduled for Aug. 9-10 of this year has been canceled. A lack of secured sponsorships is behind the decision, according to the announcement made by organizers last week, and they will now focus on bringing the festival to Southfield June 27-29, 2014, as a larger, three-day event.

“(Two) of our largest sponsors expressed budget concerns and decided that 2014 would be a better fit for them,” the announcement on www.wjzzdigital.com noted. “We met with the city and agreed that with our two largest sponsors deferring (until) 2014, it was in the best interest of all parties to reschedule the event.”

Doug Block, acting parks and recreation director for Southfield, said that additionally, ticket sales were “on the slow side” and are now being refunded through the website.

“We had not even gotten to the point yet where we were selling tickets from the Parks and Recreation desk,” Block said. “I believe that they will have a better chance pulling off an event that is more of the quality programming that the community expects if they start this time of year, especially in light of (potential sponsors) just starting a new budget cycle.”

On April 22, Southfield City Council unanimously approved the decision for a jazz festival to return to the city lawn after the previous organizer, station V98.7, folded five years ago. WJZZ Digital Station Manager Kenneth Marshall brought the proposal before council and shared his vision to bring back a local jazz festival.

Since the former festival had a successful 10-year run in Southfield, the Web-based company in Novi decided to host their event in the same location, partnering with the Parks and Recreation Department, Marshall explained in his spring presentation to council.

The key sponsorships that the station hoped to secure were not indicated, but earlier this year, Marshall listed Pegasus Entertainment, Olympia Entertainment and Quicken Loans for potential collaboration.

Block said the decision to defer until 2014 comes at no expense to the city — since they would have been reimbursed for any expenses — and only alters the department’s schedule of events.

“From a cost perspective, the city isn’t losing any money on the situation,” he said. “We are always looking for a summer signature event, but it came down to their ability to secure enough sponsors, and it was their call.”

In the meantime, his department will focus on the monthly Family Pool Party series, the  Burgh Gazebo Concerts, Eat to the Beat lunchtime concerts, Park*It @ the Burgh on July 22, and SumMore Fest on Aug. 7 as community programming for residents.

“This was an extremely cohesive group, and we really look forward to partnering with them for 2014,” Block added about WJZZ.

The festival had a projected budget of $120,000-$150,000, with upwards of $50,000 going to secure both local and national talent. Approximately $32,000 would have gone toward production and another $15,000 for Southfield police and public works.

WJZZ would have paid $4,500 for use of the municipal lawn and to cover all expenses for the show. The company also would reimburse city personnel and provide overnight security to guard the equipment.

Though the 2013 festival was slated as a two-day event, Southfield Community Relations Manager Michael Manion said that the 2014 Smooth Jazz Fest will now potentially be a three-day occasion, which may lead to more nationally known artists being secured.

Automatic full ticket refunds will begin July 15 and should be completed by July 19; those who have not received a refund by July 19 can call WJZZ at (248) 461-3483 or email tickets@mcmsradio.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.