Sunday, August 7, 2022

Winter festival warms up Williamsburg with jazz, blues, wine and brews

The Winter Blues Jazz Festival will kick off on Thursday in Downtown Williamsburg. (Photo courtesy of Jill Ryan)
The Winter Blues Jazz Festival will kick off on Thursday in Downtown Williamsburg. (Photo courtesy of Jill Ryan)

Locals and visitors in Greater Williamsburg can escape their winter funk this weekend at the fourth annual Winter Blues Jazz Festival.

The festival highlights local performers and includes wine and beer tastings, various culinary displays and, of course, jazz music.

This year’s event will begin on Thursday and run through Sunday. Various events will be held in and around downtown Williamsburg.

In its fourth year, the Winter Blues Jazz Festival expects to sell close to 2,000 tickets to locals and tourists, according to producer Steve Rose.

The festival’s first year was a huge success — selling nearly 1,400 tickets — and has continued to grow ever since, Rose said.

“It’s more than just music,” Rose said. “The festival is more of a gathering event where friends and family can come from all over and enjoy time together.”

Rose is the owner of Williamsburg Event Rentals has been in the event industry in Williamsburg for almost 15 years. Over four years ago, he had the idea to plan a community event that was different and brought people together during the dull days of winter, he said.

His solution: A jazz festival that would take place during January’s long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend each year.

The name of the festival, the “Winter Blues Jazz Festival,” started as a play on words, Rose said. The message encouraged people to leave the cold, wintery blues behind and experience the fun of jazz.

Now, the name has expanded the event to include blues performances, as well as the original jazz, Rose said.

The incorporation of blues music into the event creates a different atmosphere that draws in audiences from as far as Boston, Rose said. The festival was first designed to highlight local jazz musicians, but now, it has grown into a popular event that brings people together from all directions.

About half of the attendees are not from the Williamsburg area, Rose said.

The cold weather of the season makes indoor venues necessary, but also limits the amount of space for audiences — meaning space is limited.

The number of tickets sold is based on the available space. As the event becomes more popular each year, tickets are selling out event faster, Rose said.

While attendance grows each year, the atmosphere is still relaxed and comfortable in the indoor settings.

“We wanted to create a high-quality program with small, intimate events,” Rose said.

Jazz festival event schedule

The Winter Blues Jazz Festival will kick off on Thursday in Downtown Williamsburg. (Photo courtesy of Jill Ryan)
The Winter Blues Jazz Festival will kick off on Thursday in Downtown Williamsburg. (Photo courtesy of Jill Ryan)

The festival events range from wine tastings to dancing.

Visitors to the event can either attend free events or pay for individual events.

Thursday events:

  • Opening night celebration at the Williamsburg Winery at 7 p.m.

Friday events:

  • Mixology cocktail tasting presented by local bartenders at the Williamsburg Lodge at 7 p.m.
  • After party at The Williamsburg Lodge at 9:30 p.m.

Saturday events:

  • DoG Street Pub Barrelhouse Bash at 11:30 a.m. in Merchant’s Square
  • The Art of Jazz at The Muscarelle Museum at 1 p.m.
  • Sax Challenge Extravaganza at The Kimball Theatre at 6:30 p.m.
  • Late night jazz club at the Williamsburg Art Gallery at 9:30 p.m.

Sunday events:

  • Jazz wind down at Amber Ox Kitchen and Brewery at 4 p.m.

The four-day VIP passes are sold out as of Wednesday, and while individual tickets are still available, they are in limited supply.

For more information and a full list of events, visit the festival’s website.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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