Jazz & Roots Festival makes downtown Springfield sing (Editorial)

This is where Springfield got a chance to honk their own horn – literally – and hit all the right notes.

In less than a decade, the Jazz & Roots Festival has become a staple of entertainment that enlivens late summer and draws crowds of visitors to downtown Springfield. This year was no exception; in fact, with an expanded program, it was better than ever.

There was jazz, there was salsa and there was music in the social context of our time. This free family event has become not just an entertaining experience, but a unifying event that makes visitors feel good when they arrive and better as the music goes by.

The festival has a history. It was founded by Kristin Neville, wife of the late Charles Neville, known professionally as Charlie the Horn Man and famed member of the Grammy Award-winning Neville Brothers.

The two-day festival outgrew a single stage. This year’s event has expanded to 21 acts across two venues, the Charles Neville Main Stage in Stearns Square and the Urban Square Stage in Tower Square Park on Main Street.

Credit goes to From blue to green, a non-profit organization that relies on the help of volunteers. This small, dedicated group applies their taste and passion to meet the enormous demands of time and planning for a top-notch show.

Evan Plotkin has also been deeply involved in the series. The president of NAI Plotkin, a Springfield-based real estate brokerage and management firm, is a tireless supporter of downtown growth and vibrancy.

Plotkin’s projects include a five-story mural on Worthington Street that salutes the town’s nostalgic past.

Springfield is well suited for a jazz festival. As Kristin Neville pointed out, famed saxophonist Phil Woods was born in the city, Taj Mahal grew up here, and the city’s strong black community relates to jazz as a black American art form.

Restaurants were full, downtown was bubbling, and the feeling of shared experience was in the air. The Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival ranks high on the city’s list of cultural attractions and promises to continue to do so for years to come.

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