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City cancels 2020 Jazz Festival, postpones the event until 2021

The City of Jacksonville announced today the 2020 Jacksonville Jazz Festival has been cancelled.

The City’s Office of Sports and Entertainment made the announcement, citing public health concerns in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The event has been postponed until May 2021, according to Nikki Kimbleton, director of public affairs for the city.

“The City of Jacksonville is committed to the health and safety of the community, and we urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials,” according to a statement from the city.

All VIP ticketholders will have their tickets refunded to their original method of payment within two weeks, according to the release. The city sold 400 3-day passes, according to Kimbleton.

“The Jacksonville Jazz Festival has celebrated musical icons, showcased our vibrant culture and our diverse community for over 39 years. The decision to cancel was done in the best interest of public safety for spectators, performers and our staff,” said Ryan Ali, chief of sports and entertainment for the city in an email. “We are thankful for our VIP patrons who continue to support the festival along with our partners and sponsors. We look forward to celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival during Memorial Day weekend 2021.”

The annual event has become one of Jacksonville’s premier affairs. The 2020 festival would have marked the 40th anniversary, although the Jazz Festival has grown exponentially since former Mayor Jake Godbold helped found it. In 2018, the Festival drew 31,500 unique visitors and had an economic impact of nearly $10 million.

“The Jazz Fest is a fantastic event every year. The city does an incredible job – the majority of it [the Festival] is free – so it’s really an unbelievable event for a lot of people,” said Jake Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision Inc. “Obviously, were disappointed for downtown Jacksonville – to not have it this year is definitely sad.”

Gordon added that getting large crowds of people together – even in a month or two – probably wouldn’t be the best idea given the current circumstances. Michael Corrigan, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville, agreed.

“Safety of our visitors is always Visit Jacksonville’s number one priority,” Corrigan said in an email. “We are sd to miss this year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival, but we know it will be back bigger and better than ever in 2021.”

For the Bread & Board, which signed a 5-year contract to cater the Festival’s VIP offering, the cancellation means a significant loss of revenue. However, co-owner Dwayne Beliakoff said he’s glad to see the city is making public health and safety a priority.

“More than anything, it’s safety first,” Beliakoff said. “The sheer number of people that would be gathering at that point does not make a lot of sense to me.”

Beliakoff added that Bread & Board is already looking forward to catering the event in 2021.