By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor
SPRINGFIELD The sounds of jazz will be returning this summer to Springfield. The Hoop City Jazz and Art Festival is set to kick off July 7 at Riverfront Park.
John Osborn, the festival's president, said members of the public have asked him about the return of the festival that was presented originally in Mason Square for three years. Osborne said the festival was hampered by perceptions that the neighborhood was unsafe and he wanted to move it to a different location.
"It's clear people have missed the jazz festival," Osborn said. "A lot of people from Springfield travel throughout the region to Hartford, New Haven and Newport looking for the same kind of events that we had in our backyard."
Osborn's ultimate goal is to build the festival into a destination event for the city.
"Cultural tourism is important to the city," he added.
The daylong event is still free, although Osborn is working with the Open Pantry to use the festival as way to solicit donations to the food pantry.
This year the line-up will include:
Chieli Minuci & Special EFX, whose sound reflects influence from world music, progressive rock acid jazz and rhythm and blues;
Mike Philips, whose 2006 appearance at the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz Osborn said, had "the ladies swooning and the men dancing;
Local favorite Jo Sallins with the Jo Sallins Youth Percussion Ensemble;
The Latin Heartbeat Orchestra with number influenced by Tito Puente and Ray Barreto.
"Jazz appeals to all ages, all races and cuts across the line," Osborn said. "There is something there for everybody."
The music will be hosted on stage by Springfield native Wali Collins, a stand-up comedian who has appeared on television on "Premium Blend," "Late Night with David Letterman," "The View," and "Spin City." Collins has also been in seen in the feature film "Coyote Ugly," and is the lead actor of the recent independent film, "Claire Hits it Big."
Besides the performances, the festival will feature an international food court, exhibits by local artists, a vendor mall and a community resources tent.
Osborn is exploring the possibility of live radio and web broadcasts of the music as well.
Besides helping the Open Pantry, Osborn wants to raise money through the festival to help the Community Music School with it scholarship program.
Osborn's organization is non-profit and he has received support for the festival from MassMutual, the Mayor's Office, the City of Springfield Parks Department and Health Department, the Community Foundation, Edu-clean, Wal-Mart, and the Springfield Sheraton, among others. Osborn is looking for more sponsorship and can be reached at 731-6590.
The Web site for the festival is www.hoopcityjazz.org.