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Onondaga County approves $125,000 for Jazz Fest

Onondaga Legislature.JPG
Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County lawmakers approved $125,000 in funding for Syracuse Jazzfest Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Organizers are one step closer to bringing Jazz Fest back to central New York. Onondaga County lawmakers are the latest to agree to chip in some cash for the music festival, joining the city of Syracuse in offering $125,000 to help resurrect the music festival that spanned 35 years before shutting down in 2017.

Jazz Fest founder and organizer Frank Malfitano said this latest cash infusion is a big deal.

"We’re closer than we’ve been over the last five years, and I’m cautiously optimistic,” Malfitano said. “Nothing would please me more than to say to the public, ‘we’re on, we’re a definite go.’”

Before that can happen, Malfitano needs state funds and a private sector sponsor to bring in the extra money it takes to run the $500,000 festival. In the meantime, he has dates picked out, late June, and artists standing by waiting for word that funds are in hand. And he’s working with the city of Syracuse to hold it downtown, where the festival was held until 2002.

Ellen Abbott
Jazzfest founder Frank Malfitano

The city’s money comes from federal COVID relief funds. The county cash comes from hotel room occupancy tax money, and according to legislator Julie Abbott, a proviso that some funds will be directed to the region’s tourism agency, Visit Syracuse.

“To really try and promote spending in the area, and helping out our restaurants and helping out our hotels, which is why we in the legislature put the caveat that we really want the promotion of Visit Syracuse. They’re who we rely on to drive tourism."

After five years of unsuccessfully trying to revive the festival, Malfitano expects this might be the right time to bring free jazz music back to central New York.

“I think the pandemic has had a traumatizing effect on the world, as well as our city, county and region,” he said. “And I think people are anxious to get back out and normalize their lives and get back together again."

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.