The popular downtown jazz festival will be replaced by six shows at different venues. Rosa Parks Circle renovations will force other Grand Rapids celebrations to move to Calder Plaza or other sites next year.
Due to planned renovations at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle, GRandJazzFest won’t take place in 2020, with the Asian-Pacific Festival and Polish Festival moving to Calder Plaza next summer.
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Mid-August’s popular two-day GRandJazzFest, which for the past eight years has attracted several thousand people to Rosa Parks Circle for jazz performances by national and regional stars, was informed in late August that it would have to find a new location next year.
Mike Frost, interim president of the GR and Jazz Board that organizes the event, said the group determined last week that it would take a one-year hiatus from GRandJazzFest.
“We decided that because of Rosa Parks Circle not being available in 2020 we will not do the usual two-day festival,” he told Local Spins.
“Instead, we are reaching out to venues that regularly have music or may be interested in having music and sponsoring six shows throughout the year to keep GRandJazzFest in the public eye for 2020. We plan to return the big festival in 2021 when Rosa Parks is completed.”
The venues, dates and performers for this six-show alternative to the festival have not yet been determined.
David Marquardt, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the $1.5 million in Rosa Parks Circle renovations are part of a restoration project that will include new granite seating bands, restroom upgrades, new lighting, electrical improvements and “overall general restoration of original park components.”
The actual timetable for construction, however, hasn’t been determined.
Although work tentatively is slated to begin in spring 2020 and run through late summer, the city’s special events supervisor, Evette Pittman, said there’s a chance construction might not start until 2021.
“The timeline is dependent on design and funding,” she told Local Spins. “We will not have a confirmed construction date until this winter.”
But due to the possibility the project will move forward next year, the city is “relocating all events scheduled to be at RPC from March 2020 through August 2020.”
ASIAN-PACIFIC AND POLISH FESTIVALS TO CALDER PLAZA; ‘RELAX AT ROSA’ UNCERTAIN
In addition to GRandJazzFest, that includes June’s Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival and August’s Dozynki Polish Festival, with organizers for both events informing Local Spins that they would move for 2020 to Calder Plaza on Ottawa Avenue NW near City Hall.
But Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., which hosts the free Relax at Rosa lunchtime concerts that take place at noon on Thursdays, hasn’t decided its course of action for the summer series.
Megan Catcho, event coordinator for Downtown Grand Rapids, noted it’s “still up in the air” as to whether those renovations will actually begin in the spring. “I am waiting for a final confirmation on that before I make the call for Relax at Rosa,” she said.
“Our office is assisting organizers to find alternate locations,” Pittman added. “Depending upon event elements, locations may vary.” Alternate sites for other events could include other city parks.
Although Sunday’s sets at the 2019 GRandJazzFest were affected by rain, the festival attracted huge crowds on Saturday at Rosa Parks Circle for performances by Guitar G-Force, Paula Atherton, Tenth World, Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra and more.
Festival founder Audrey Sundstrom, who announced her retirement from the GR and Jazz Board during this year’s event, said she’s proud of the legacy of the free festival, which showcases “the many genres of jazz” for a diverse audience “regardless of age, gender, socio-economic level, ethnicity and religious affiliation.”
She said that was confirmed by Downtown Grand Rapids, which named GRandJazzFest a “signature event” after a study determined the festival attracted “the most diverse group of attendees” of any event in the city.
“It is my hope that those that value GRandJazzFest come forward and join with the GR and Jazz Board in their endeavor to continue to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together to experience and embrace jazz,” she said. “Jazz has the capacity to be a binding force to bring people together.”
Now, Sundstrom said, she’s looking forward to being “a fully retired person,” along with her husband, former Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom.
Revisit the recap of GRandJazzFest 2019 at Local Spins: GRandJazzFest heats up downtown with eclectic jazz, ‘good taste of Grand Rapids’
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