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Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival returns for a 10th year

The Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival of 2022 takes place in Stearns Square in the heart of the downtown dining district in Springfield, Massachusetts.
City of Springfield
The Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival of 2022 takes place in Stearns Square in the heart of the downtown dining district in Springfield, Massachusetts.

It takes place around Stearns Square July 20-22

A music festival in western Massachusetts is marking its 10th anniversary this weekend.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival is expanding to three days, July 20th-22nd in the streets around Stearns Square in the heart of the city’s dining district.

As in years past, the free festival features live music, workshops for music school students, food, and various vendors – all assembled, say the organizers, to provide a vibrant celebration of jazz and African roots music.

One of this year’s highlights is the screening of a documentary “City of a Million Dreams” about the tradition of jazz funerals in New Orleans.

Following two evenings of performances, the festival kicks into high gear Saturday with a “second line” parade that starts in front of City Hall at 12:30 p.m. The festival line up for Saturday has 14 performances on two stages.

Festival co-producer Kristin Neville said people have described the event to her as “a big warm hug” and “a big gesture of love.”

“And I agree,” Neville said. “Because it stems from a love for this music and care and respect for the individuals and communities that birthed it and passed it from generation-to-generation, shaped it, expressed themselves through it, found strength and freedom and meaning, and connected with something greater than themselves through it bringing us all closer together and bringing us all joy.”

The featured artist at this year’s festival is renowned jazz bassist and composer, Avery Sharpe, a Springfield native.

Joined by Haneef Nelson on trumpet, they gave a brief performance at the festival press conference.

Reflecting on the first decade of the festival, co-producer Evan Plotkin said it’s not just the incredible music but the ethos behind it that keeps the event going.

“It’s an event where people from all walks of life can come together, leaving their differences at the door, and embrace the universal language of music,” he said.

As for the impact the festival has had on the city, Mayor Domenic Sarno said it has become a “premier regional event” that brings up to 10,000 people to downtown Springfield.

“And the businesses love it because people having a good time like to spend money and they are going into our establishments,” Sarno said.

The festival is produced by Blues to Green, a nonprofit organization that uses music and the arts to catalyze social and environmental change.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.