|25 Years And 'Le Jazz' Is Still Hot In Elkhart|
|Written by Marcia Fulmer|
|Friday, 13 July 2012 01:25|
Looking out my window and watching my grass turn multi-shades of brown, I couldn’t help thinking what a difference the weather makes.
It’s now a July that is definitely a scorcher. On June 22, the sky was blue and clear and the sun’s warmth tempered by a lovely breeze. It was perfect weather for the official opening of the 25th annual Elkhart Jazz Festival.
Having been around since the first EJF, mostly in an “official” capacity as a reporter for The Elkhart Truth, I think I am qualified to speak to the annual changes, mostly due to the number of “stages” that were/were not available in any given June.
There is no question that the quality of the invited musicians has always been the best the budget could afford. In the more than capable hands of long-time talent coordinator Van Young, every year, no matter what the combinations, there was always something for everyone and frequently more than several somethings.
Initially, the Midway Motor Lodge was the location of at least three stages, with the midnight jam session Saturday in the pool area always a highlight of the weekend. Even when the pool turned green.
When the Midway closed — and please don’t ask exactly when that was as all my programs are in the garage — the search was on to make up for the triple loss. Various empty storefronts on — or right off —Main Street were recruited. Several were used for more than one year but two major problems I
The next alternatives were white and portable. Tents of varying sizes were rented and erected in at least two, sometimes three, locations. One, set on the grassy knoll that covered the last vestiges of the Midway, even had plastic windows and portable air conditioners. Unfortunately, the ambience was less than desirable and the legs of the folding chairs sank unevenly into the ground, frequently leaving listeners lopsided. When one EJF chairman decided to take the event from three to two days, it seemed that the once-expanding festival was definitely on the way out.
Then came a musical lifeline called The Lerner.
It took a determined Elkhart businessman to rally a committee with internal and external financial resources. Once in motion, not only did the theater come alive, but its surroundings began to bloom again as well.
It took two years to fully restore the former Elco Theatre to its turn-of-the-century glory, but everyone agrees it was well worth the wait. Especially those EJF workers behind the scenes.
There is no doubt that the outcome of any community-wide project rises and falls on the dedication of its volunteers. And believe me, during some of the EJF’s 25 years, it took more than a little dedication.
Somehow, in spite of years of frequently blistering heat and at least one or two of torrential downpours (I recall going barefoot as the water ran above the curbs), plus internal dissention, shifting committee heads and changes in city administrations, the festival managed, like that non-stop bunny, to keep going on and on and on and on and . . .
More EJF reflections to come.