City starts to jazz up for its time to shine
IT’S beginning to look a lot like festival time, as street bunting, window decorations and a steady population boost herald the arrival of this weekend’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.
Penny Hargrave, Rural City of Wangaratta representative on the jazz festival board, said visitor numbers were expected to rise from tomorrow as the city prepared for its time to shine in the spotlight.
In a shift for the festival, which is celebrating its 29th year in 2018, much of the focus for locals will be on Merriwa Park.
The popular community stage will move to the relaxing surrounds of the sunken gardens and its stand of majestic red gums, adjacent to the blues tent, so for the first time there will be no road closures around the city centre.
The popular Sunday market will also be held in the park.
“The board was careful to think about patrons, as well as the community experience; by not closing roads and moving the community stage out of the CBD, it will be easier to move around and easier to find parking,” Ms Hargrave said.
“And who wouldn’t want to sit in Merriwa Park all day with friends and family, eat and drink, and listen to great music?”
The community stage was located in Ford Street last year, and prior to that in Faithfull Street, after moving from its original home in Reid Street.
“The atmosphere in the park will be phenomenal, and more of a celebration of what Wangaratta is really like,” Ms Hargrave said.
“We know that for many people, the community stage is their annual catch-up, so it will be perfect for that.
“With the community stage positioned adjacent to the blues stage, when there is music on the community stage, there will be a break on the blues stage, and vice versa, so there will be music happening all the time.”
While there is some rain forecast for Friday, Ms Hargrave said Saturday’s predic-
tion of a sunny 25 degrees would be “absolutely glorious, and make the park just sing”.
A vehicle will be provided to transport festival-goers up and down the road into Merriwa Park if required, further adding to the event’s relaxing feel.
Ms Hargrave said ticket sales for the weekend festival were progressing well, with tickets this year available from the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre box office.
“We will close off online sales on Thursday, and after that it will be all over the
counter sales at WPAC,” she said.
However, those soaking up the atmosphere at the community stage and enjoying what they hear from the nearby blues tent will be able to purchase blues tickets in Merriwa Park.
“We are keen to see how that flow happens from the community stage to the blues,” Ms Hargrave said.
Locals passes are still avail-
able, at a cost of $85 for blues (usually $135) and $155 covering the festival’s eight venues (usually $190), and Ms Hargrave said there was a range of entertainment to suit all ages.
From the Friday night premiere at the WPAC of an Australian Art Orchestra work set around World War 1, to Justine Clarke performing on the blues stage on Sunday morning, there will be something
International artists from the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Japan, India and Indonesia will join top Australian performers, as well as locals on the community stage.
The festival also includes the National Jazz Award, this year focusing on drums, with 10 finalists competing in heats across the weekend.
“We probably don’t understand how lucky we are to have these artists coming to Wangaratta, and there is a lot there for people to get involved in,” Ms Hargrave said.
Rural City of Wangaratta mayor Ken Clarke encouraged locals to soak up the atmosphere and music of the festival.
“I think patrons will be extremely pleased with the program on offer,” Cr Clarke said.
“Council’s involvement both financially and in kind I am confident will see the city reap the benefits of the festival, as will our retailers, restaurants and accommodation houses.
“I congratulate the passionate members of the jazz board for their love of jazz and the investment of time they have put into this great festival.”
ALL HAPPENING: Jazz board member Miriam Zolin, board chair Mark Bolsius, and Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre manager Tanya Camplin are ready for the influx of visitors joining locals to enjoy this weekend’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.