By: Julieta Hernandez
On Tuesday, Mayor Joe McComb made it official: October 19th-21st are officially Texas Jazz Festival days in Corpus Christi this year, coinciding with the 58th year of the festival.
Jazz is swinging into town this weekend: give it three days, and Heritage Park becomes a home for all forms of pure, live jazz and its enthusiastic fans. Here’s some of the history of how giving jazz a home in South Texas turned out to have a huge turn out – and has stayed that way for almost sixty years.
Roughly 58 years ago, in November of 1959, the Texas Jazz Festival started out in the Del Mar College auditorium with a turnout way larger than expected – from an expected thirty seats to somewhere around 150! Attendance grew anytime Del Mar College had an event like this again, and the campus parking lot would overflow with the cars of guests rushing inside to hear the music.
In July of 1961, the college got together with the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce after the success of the concert was brought to their attention. Soon, the festival concerts took place in town, and was opened to outside musicians and to the rest of the public. Thus began the yearly tradition, which has intentionally kept free of admission, so that anyone in South Texas can enjoy live American Jazz as an art form.
Today, the CCRTA even offers free rides to the festival for the duration of the weekend.The importance of keeping passionate, original, and quality jazz free of charge to the public is what the Texas Jazz Festival Society strives to accomplish. It’s the same goal that drives volunteers at the jazz fest, who are there for the same reason: because they love jazz, and they want to share it with everyone.
The success of the jazz fest has made it pretty legendary. In 1987, the Ramsey Lewis trio (with a trio of Grammy Awards) was featured in the festival as non-stop jazz played across multiple locations; that year, it was on the People’s Street T-Head and the Coliseum, with a shuttle trolley transporting listeners freely. These days, well-known jazz musicians from all across Texas, and then all across the United States, come participate in playing for the public.
When did those hearty Jazz Fest Turkey Leg food truck vendors start rolling in? Well, history isn’t so sure about that one, but they’ve since been an iconic part of the jazz fest experience.
As you plan your weekend for Jazz Fest, check out more of the history on how the festival seemed to naturally crescendo over the years and become a highlight of The Coastal Bend on their website, https://www.texasjazz-fest.org/ . As per tradition, the non-stop jazz will flow across different stages, so guests can drift across one style of jazz to another. Just like the old days, but now we can get cool selfies with each other to preserve our memories there for ourselves.