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Jazz Fest organizers say record crowd this year; looking ahead to next year for the 20th edition

An aerial view of Parcel 5 at night. A large crowd of Jazz Fest attendees are in the center.
Fred SanFilipo
Jazz fans packed Parcel 5 on the final night of the Rochester Jazz Festival 2022.

The nine-day CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival is in the books. It came back this month after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Producers Marc Iacona and John Nugent said that the festival saw record attendance of 210,000.

The festival included 11 free headliner shows on 2 outdoor stages and 130 free shows as well as Club Pass performances in 11 venues.

This year’s event looked different. Instead of the headliners appearing in large indoor venues, Parcel 5 was used for free outdoor shows, that attracted thousands of people.

Thousands pack Parcel 5 for the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival on Saturday for the Danielle Ponder performance
Scott Fybush
Thousands pack Parcel 5 for the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival on Saturday for the Danielle Ponder performance

Nugent said that could not have happened without external funding, include pandemic-related federal funding.

“(The) federal government helped us out,” Nugent said. “You saw what happened to Parcel 5 all week, thousands and thousands and thousands of people, hugging each other, loving free music, courtesy of a shuttered-venues operators grant, the federal government made that happen.”

Nugent said that for those kinds of shows to happen in future years at the jazz fest, it will take a concerted effort by local leaders to find outside sources of funding.

“It’s all contingent on finding the funding the funding, you need money to make this happen,” Nugent said. “It’s a lot of money to run with that over there. The headliners we had there are all hard ticket revenue headliners. They were free, no revenue except food, beverage; it’s not enough to make it work. So between the mayor, the county executive, the state and any other funding sources, we need to raise the funding to be able to give it away for free.”

The outdoor shows held on Parcel 5 brought thousands of people to that location on Main Street downtown, including on the last night of the festival on Saturday, when locally-based singer Danielle Ponder attracted big crowds to that show. Ponder has been gaining national attention this year including an appearance recently on Late Night with Seth Myers.

(Read WXXI Arts & Life editorJeff Spevak’s review of Ponder’s showas well as his picks for some of his other favorite performances during the festival).

The 20th edition of the jazz festival is scheduled for June 23-July 1, 2023.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.