'Difficult decision': JazzFest goes on hiatus

Published: Dec. 7, 2019 at 3:28 PM CST
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JazzFest for 2020 is going on a hiatus. KSFY News learned of this Friday night after a statement was released. The Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society said that they will take some time to focus their energy on educating people on jazz and blues music across the region.

President of the Board of Directors with the Jazz and Blues Society, Beth Ormseth tells KSFY News that it wasn't an easy decision to go on a hiatus. We asked her if this was in the plans before JazzFest 2019 and she said to it wasn't.

The Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society have decided to rest their JazzFest torch for 2020 after the last three to four years JazzFest has seen declining attendance. Ormseth said there may be a number of reasons, but they're still looking into it.

"This year the catalyst was we had a couple of our main acts that canceled due to reasons that were out of our control," Ormseth said.

Going into 2019 they were optimistic about their line up, but the weather became an issue with scorching heat and storms. Ormseth said financially they're trying to diversify fundraising efforts.

"Additional expenses due to some of the conditions with the park after the spring flooding and there were just several headwinds that kind of collided all at one time this year," Ormseth said.

She been a JazzFest volunteer for 10 years and is currently serving in her third term on the board.

She said with JazzFest gone for now she knows volunteers and other board members are disappointed but hopes to reach them when JazzFest reignites its fire.

"As a board member, it's a very difficult decision to make because you have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization and at the same time you have the emotional impact of an event that's been so important to this community. To me personally, that makes it very difficult," Ormseth said.

But with JazzFest out for 2020, the organization is still looking ahead to the future continuing all focus on education. They have a jazz diversity program with musicians that travel the state to perform live music in front of students. She said it's all for lower-income, rural students that don't have music in their schools.

"Jazz and blues are the mother and father of music. If you think about rock and roll and think about many other types of music it is a part of our history. It's a part of our culture, it's a part of our racial diversity going back many many years," Ormseth said.

Last month the city began talks of hiking event fees. Events like JazzFest would be required to pay a fee to the city of around $70 per hour for a police presence, but Ormseth said that this proposed ordinance had nothing to do with the hiatus.

The organization said they will continue to have a great relationship with the city.

A formal proposal from the city has not been introduced. Ormseth said that a part of their education push Jazz Camp will for sure be happening this coming July with the plan to bring back the festival in 2021.

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