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Syracuse Jazz Fest to remain at OCC -- for now

Ellen Abbott
Jazz Fest founder Frank Malfitano and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney at a news conference Wednesday.

The Syracuse Jazz Fest will celebrate its 35th year next year. And it will do that at Onondaga Community College, it’s home for the last several years, and with the expected full support of Onondaga County government. That didn’t seem like a sure thing after several days of controversy over a budgetary move.

It all started with Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed 2017 budget. The county has traditionally supported Jazz Fest, and this year the funds were there, but put in the parks budget, with the idea that the music festival would play at the new Lakeview Amphitheater instead of a temporary stage at OCC. But if the festival continued to be held at OCC, did that mean the yearly event, founded by Frank Malfitano, wouldn’t get the county cash?

Mahoney joined Malfatano at a news conference Wednesday to put any talk of that to rest.

"The last 48 hours may have been a little bit exaggerated. The funding for Jazz Fest is in the budget, and it'll be spent the way Frank Malfatano wants it to be,” said the county executive.

Mahoney admits that she’s always envisioned the Jazz Fest at the new amphitheater. And Malfatano does not rule that out down the line. But he says he wants to keep the festival where it is for now, especially because it is reaching that 35-year milestone.

"We really need to put a bow on this, and make sure it’s the best festival we can possibly do to celebrate our community in a big way. Because it’s a huge deal for Syracuse, New York and Onondaga County to be having a 35th anniversary Jazz Festival. It just doesn’t happen in America that much,” said Malfatano.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.