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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 22, 201803:00 PM EST

Jacksonville Jazz Festival headed to court (house)

For the first time since 2009, the Jacksonville Landing isn’t being used as a venue.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival has a new venue for the Friday through Sunday headliner performances on the Swingin’ Stage presented by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority: at Adams and Pearl streets adjacent to the Duval County Courthouse and State Attorney’s Office.

And for the first time since 2009, when the festival moved from Metropolitan Park to the urban core, the city isn’t using the riverfront Jacksonville Landing as a venue.

Trial Court Administrator Joe Stelma said weekly meetings with the city Office of Special Events began about two months ago to work out the logistics involved with setting up the stage, sound system and lighting and crowd control barricades.

Streets around the courthouse will be closed and traffic rerouted.

The festival ends Sunday night and the traffic pattern will be restored by Tuesday morning after the Monday Memorial Day holiday.

The east lawn at the Duval County Courthouse will be the audience area in front of the jazz festival main stage. The city will repair, or replace if necessary, the turf after the event.

Because of the holiday weekend, the courthouse will be closed from 5 p.m. Friday until Tuesday, but a plan is in place to maintain the building’s security as thousands of spectators are expected to attend the festival.

“The sidewalks around the building will be secured by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. There will be plenty of security in place,” Stelma said.

The only anticipated major impact on courthouse operations will be if the lawn in front of the building is damaged by foot traffic. Restoring the turf is included in the plan.

“The city will repair or replace any damage to the lawn. I think it’s well thought out,” Stelma said.

The State Attorney’s Office also was included in planning the new layout for the festival.

Personnel who usually park in the courtesy lot that will become the stage and backstage area have been provided alternative parking.

First Assistant State Attorney Stephen Siegel said that historically, the Friday before a Monday holiday has less traffic related to the courts.

The office will be operating with a staff limited to attorneys with trials and hearings scheduled and their support staff.

“We understand the city’s need to use this area for the Jazz Festival. We’ll be back to business as usual on Tuesday,” he said.

Brian Corrigan, spokesman for the Duval County Clerk of Courts, said the courthouse will have normal business hours Friday.

Customers are advised to familiarize themselves with road closures and detours related to the festival, he said.

As in years past, stages for the festival will be set up at Hemming Park and in the parking lot at Adams and Main streets. 

Unlike years past, there will not be a stage or any city-sponsored activities at the Jacksonville Landing.

A map of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival activities.

The building’s owner, Jacksonvile Landing Investments LLC, in November entered into litigation with the city over the terms of its lease agreement. Three weeks ago, JLI filed a motion in Circuit Court to compel the city to repair the city-owned docks at the Landing that were damaged by hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

The administration says the litigation had no bearing on moving the festival from the Landing.

“Jazz Fest is a gathering to celebrate music and community. Each year, decisions regarding talent, stage location and marketing are made that ensure a great experience for music lovers and to maximize revenue opportunities for the city. Utilizing an iconic backdrop like the courthouse emphasizes the sense of community built into this great event,” said mayor’s office spokeswoman Tia Ford in an email.

Toney Sleiman, JLI manager, did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

According to the riverfront dining and entertainment venue’s website, a free “Seafood and Jazz Festival” is scheduled there Friday through Sunday.

In addition to seafood vendors all three days, two bands are scheduled in the courtyard beginning at 5 p.m. Friday. Four bands are scheduled each day beginning 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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