By Ethan Brogan
INDIANA — Summer heat and bright sun drew crowds downtown to start the 2016 Memorial Day weekend at the Westsylvania Jazz & Blues Festival.
Festival organizers said Saturday’s weather cooperated and business support increased for the third annual music fair.
“This year we tried to up the game,” said Matthew R. Baumer, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania music professor and an event coordinator.
Organizers estimated daytime attendance at 1,200 as weather reports pegged temperatures in the low 90s.
Event organizer and Dad Band saxophonist Michael J. Powers said the event also aimed to educate young people about jazz and blues – “getting kids exposed to someone at the top of their game,” he said in a May 25 interview.
The show started at 10:30 a.m. with the Dad Band leading a musical procession on the two blocks down Philadelphia Street from the public library on Ninth Street to the main festival stage at IRMC Park on North Seventh Street.
The Indiana Area High School jazz ensemble took the stage until noon, followed by local bands Grist for the Mill and Jukehouse Bombers. Regional artists the Nevin Saylor Big Band followed, with trombonist Jeff Bush, a Duquesne University music professor.
The free open-air carnival encouraged audience members to pop in for performances.
IUP graduate accounting student Joshua D. Conrad came for Rushton’s band.
“He was crazy on the drums,” Conrad enthused.
Trudy Lynn, billed as Houston’s “first lady of the blues,” took the stage at 7:30 p.m. to cap the day. Lynn has recorded 11 studio albums and opened for artists such as Ike and Tina Turner.
At 9 p.m., after-hours sessions, facilitated by festival organizers, started at local live-performance venues — Ferguson and Friends at RBG Bar and Grill at Park Inn, The Jukehouse Bombers at The Brown Hotel, Jazz with Dr. Mike at The Coventry Inn, and Grist for the Mill at Josephine’s Pizzeria and Enoteca.
Primary sponsor Delaney Chevrolet has pledged support for the festival through 2019, organizers said. Other sponsors included Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, IUP Lively Arts, Indiana Arts Council, 90.5 WESA-FM Pittsburgh and 91.3 WYEP-FM Pittsburgh.
Ethan C. Brogan, a senior majoring in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Pittsburgh.
The festival in photos by Ethan Brogan