By John Abel, Aurora ON. Aurora’s Historic Town Park was the venue for the Aurora Jazz+ Festival 2012 for the 4th straight year. For over 100 years our Town Park has served as a focal point for community events.
That’s easy to see when you visit. There are many mature trees, a beautiful well constructed bandshell, a top notch well lit baseball diamond, a splash pad, and the park is equipped with excellent washroom facilities. In the winter there’s an outdoor skating rink. Immaculately maintained, operated and funded by the Town – a treasure for sure.
“THE JAZZ FESTIVAL HAS A TALENTED AND DIVERSE ENTERTAINMENT LINE UP. THE SCHEDULE WAS SPOT ON. ONLY ONE ACT WAS DELAYED AND SHORTENED DUE TO RAIN.”
My name is John Abel and I am an elected representative. I proudly serve as your Councillor here in the Town of Aurora. This is my first post, part 1 of 2 on the Aurora Jazz+ Festival 2012. Today I write about the event and next week I’ll share my thoughts on the politics around the event.
As a music fan, I attend the Aurora Jazz+ Festival every year and with the exception of a late thunderstorm Saturday night, the weather was great.
There were by my count, 23 musical acts, 3 stages, approximately 60 Vendors in 2 separate areas of our Town Park.
My wife and I attended all 3 days. Admission was $5 daily, free for children under 12. Seniors free last year, also paid $5.
There were a great variety of vendors and I got a chance to talk to most of them. The majority were from out of town and made their living travelling to similar events across the province. As well, it was their first time at the festival.
Organizers added a 3rd stage this year. The stage was a trailer covered with a tarp. This stage had no lights, no sound system and it was stuck out in nowhere land in the middle of the adjacent baseball field. Second rate compared to the 2 large stages, replete with a sound system, technicians and lights in the comfort of the band shell portion of the Town Park. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the vendors and performers, for the lower tier treatment.
Okay, so there are certain trends with this festival.
Friday and Saturday has the St. Kitts Family and Friends from the city, whereas on Sunday the line up featured our local talent and performers from Aurora. There were a couple of exceptions.
Top billing was afforded again this year, to George St. Kitts and his son Alex. It’s no coincidence, if you were from the city, or played last year and or you had several members in the band, you were on the big stages. Don’t get me wrong; these are very talented performers. Excellent lighting, the sound was balanced, brilliant and full. On Friday and Saturday, the 3 local acts had to play out on the ball diamond.
The Sunday, by way of contrast, the majority of the line up featured local bands on the 2 center stages. There was the Manatee Band, Stacey Kaniuk, Glenn Marais, and closer Neil Chapman (Neil plays with Lou Moore frequently at King Henry Arms on Thursdays).
Some of the performances I would like to highlight. I loved Rob Tardik, best Latin Rhythm I’ve heard. His band had everyone up dancing. Cocksure Lads were an absolute delight as a British duo, visiting a shipbuilding port in the colony, named Aurora. Cheeky Python humor, amazing original songs, guitars and harmonies. Stacey Kaniuk was just amazing. Top notch backing band. This young lady is going places. Saturday night had La Nai, a soulful, deep sound that had the big crowd groovin’. Neil Chapman is one of the very best guitarist and showman. There were many other solid performances. The Jazz Festival has a talented and diverse entertainment line up. The schedule was spot on. Only one act was delayed and shortened due to rain.
“The shops and restaurants throughout our Town were empty, as is always the case for the August Long Weekend. Parking around the Aurora Jazz Festival was not a problem.”
Despite the acceptable seasonal weather conditions, attendance was down from prior years. As for the crowd, I fit in to this older local audience. Few young families and the younger university crowd seen in our local pubs was non-existent, likely due to the long weekend. The shops and restaurants throughout our Town were empty, as is always the case for the August Long Weekend. Parking around the Aurora Jazz Festival was not a problem.
So why can’t the organizers draw in the crowds? And when and where are the big economic benefits and vitalization that the festival is claiming it will draw to our community, going to materialize? It is going to be most interesting to see how the Aurora Jazz+ Festival plans fit in with the town’s Sesquicentennial Celebrations next year.
Councillor, Town of Aurora
REFERENCES & CREDITS
 Aurora Jazz+ Festival, August 3-5, 2012, Town Park.
 Aurora Jazz+ Festival Stage, Photography by Anna Lozyk Romeo.