Berks Jazz Fest returns an opportunity to celebrate
The arrival of spring is always a welcome occasion. But this year, there’s more to celebrate than the wonders of nature and the religious observances that come with this time of year.
Today, Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest returns for its 31st edition, and it couldn’t be more fitting that it coincides with revival season.
The 2020 festival had to be canceled at the last minute due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the event was pushed back to the summer due to pandemic concerns. Organizers and volunteers pulled it off through heroic effort, but with the unusual time of year and ongoing pandemic restrictions, it may not have been quite the same.
While concerts and sporting events have been back for a few months in the great halls of Reading, the return of the jazz festival is a great moment in the return to full activity of the city.
To reinforce this point, the opening of the festival tonight coincides with Reading’s first town center block party of this year, scheduled from 5pm to 10pm at Fifth and Penn streets. These events will take place on the first Friday of each month through September, featuring entertainment, virtual reality experiences, food vendors, a beer garden and more.
Some might wonder if it is a mistake to have several activities at the same time and potentially in competition with each other. That’s not how we see it. The mark of a thriving city is having many options for fun and entertainment, not just one at a time. As long as Reading officials take steps to ensure it can accommodate crowds, it should be a good step towards a more prosperous future in the city.
The enduring success of the Jazz Fest for three decades is clear proof that Reading can attract visitors if it offers events and activities that interest them. Our community is also able to attract the best artists.
Consider the festival opening tonight with a performance by New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis, one of jazz’s biggest names. The trumpet virtuoso will lead his ensemble at the Santander Performing Arts Center. He was the headliner of the first Berks Jazz Fest in 1991 and is making his fourth appearance. It’s hard to make a stronger case for the credibility of the festival than that.
For 10 days, the festival will fill the community with activity. There will be more than 40 ticketed concerts at six local venues, plus dozens of other free events at clubs and restaurants across the county. Over 300 artists participate, representing a wide variety of genres. About 35,000 spectators come to the festival every year.
The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in downtown Reading will once again serve as the festival venue. It’s a place to interact with fans and the artists themselves. This sense of community is one of the things that makes this event so successful.
We salute the Berks Arts Council, festival general manager John Ernesto and everyone else involved for keeping this tradition alive and thriving.
And we strongly encourage people in our community to come and enjoy this event. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate the work of world-class artists without having to make a long drive to a bigger city.
Hopefully today’s events mark the start of a sustained period of achievement in the continued effort to make Reading a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
Even though the past two years have slowed down Reading’s redevelopment process, Alvernia University has still managed to build its CollegeTowne project in the 400 block of Penn Street. He promises to be a centerpiece in the revitalization of Reading. With that in place, it’s time to start filling in the other pieces of the puzzle.
Here’s to continued success for Berks Jazz Fest and a great new beginning for the city it calls home.