Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Well, there won’t be a Winter Jazz Fest in January, but here’s the plan

Winter Jazz Fest, January 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of CultureFix)
Winter Jazz Fest, January 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of CultureFix)

The seventh annual Winter Blues Jazz Fest will be postponed due to restrictions on large indoor gatherings in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hosted by CultureFix, a local nonprofit that aims “to improve Greater Williamsburg’s cultural offerings for residents and visitors,” the four-day Winter Blues Jazz Fest usually takes place during January’s long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend each year. You know, to liven things up and boost business in the post-holiday season period.

For 2021, though, Williamsburg residents will have to wait until the end of April to enjoy these live jazz performances.

“There was definitely some back-and-forth on whether or not to postpone or cancel,” said Steve Rose, co-founder and president of CultureFix.

But after having to cancel a signature event this fall, ChowderFest, and after so many other event cancellations in the area this year, Rose wanted to find a way to safely continue bringing people together in a time when they feel so far apart.

Even with relaxed restrictions on indoor gatherings, it’s unlikely that enough people would be willing to attend a jazz festival indoors, and it’s difficult to predict the future when it comes to the coronavirus.

“But to host a January event outdoors presents further challenges; even in large tents with heaters, it would just be too cold,” Rose said.

So they ended up deciding to postpone until spring of 2021, which coincides with another signature CultureFix event, Scrumptious. The 2021 Winter Blues Jazz Fest will now take place April 29 through May 4, and Scrumptious is scheduled to take place the weekend after for back-to-back springtime gatherings in Williamsburg.

“Some people are itching to go out, and some people are more cautious,” Rose said when asked about the expected turnout.

CultureFix recently hosted Masks & Music in September, which brought a few people together to see some local performances and encouraged participants to shop and dine at nearby local businesses.

“Attendance for Winter Blues will probably be a little down, but that’s okay — only 50 or 60 people were at Masks & Music, but everyone had a good time,” Rose said.

Past Winter Blues attendance has reached more than 2,000 people total for the nine events over four days, with a capacity of 300-400 at each event. Weekend passes were priced at about $200 a piece, but no word yet on what this year’s prices will be. Tickets are scheduled go on sale in mid- to late February.

Plans and safety precautions for the jazz fest include a huge tent — about 60 feet by 210 feet, about 10 feet high — with plenty of space and airflow to keep people safe and comfortable in a distanced festival setting.

CultureFix is also making conscientious booking decisions with safety in mind.

“There will be more of a local flavor this year — more focus on local and regional acts instead of musicians from more far away places — to reduce travel and exposure risk,” Rose said. 

The event is still a ways away, so details for the Winter Blues Jazz Fest (which is keeping the same name even though it’s happening in the spring this year) aren’t worked out just yet.

In the meantime, mark your calendar for April 29 through May 2, visit CultureFix’s new website to subscribe to their newsletter to stay up-to-date, and check out photos and videos from last year’s Winter Blues Jazz Fest.

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