Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival The second annual Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival saw big crowds this past weekend at the event in Court Square
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Jennifer Kiely

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Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival

Written By Jeanette DeForge | jdeforge@repub.com

SPRINGFIELD – While visiting her daughter's family for the summer, Indiana resident Marcy Anderson found a perfect way to spend a sunny a Saturday afternoon downtown.

The daylong Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival attracted an estimated 5,000 people who wanted to hear music from a high school jazz group, Latin jazz performers and some bigger known names including Springfield native Avery Sharpe with Charles Neville.

"I was born and raised up on jazz. My father was a big fan of jazz," Anderson said.

She attended with her daughter Stacey Church, of Wilbraham, the general manager of the MassMutual Center, and her granddaughter Reese Church, 8.

"There is a great variety. There is a little bit of everything," Anderson said.

This is the second time the organization has run the outdoor free festival on Court Square downtown. In the future Evan Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin, of Springfield, and one of the organizers, said he would like it to expand to a second day or have music also offered in other spots in Springfield such as Riverfront Park.

The event had already expanded beyond the first year by offering several acts inside in the Old First Church located at the edge of Court Square, he said.

Plotkin was initially a member of a committee that organized the Hoop City Jazz Festival, which died in part due to the June 1, 2011 tornado. Even then he noticed the event drew a widely diverse crowd on people of different ages, races and socio-economic backgrounds.

When reviving the event, Plotkin said he wanted to hold it in the heart of downtown Springfield. With its shady expanse of grass, fountain and nearby historic buildings, it is similar to a downtown square in a European city.

"This is a revival of Springfield," he said. "It is one of the most beautiful venues in the world."

Mayor Domenic Sarno, said he was thrilled to see the lineup of bands and the hundreds of people coming out to enjoy the music. In the second year, a number of vendors were added so people could purchase food and drink and also learn about community agencies.

"People are able to showcase the good of Springfield and the good of urban America with this festival," he said.

The perfect weather, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s, also drew many people, Sarno added.

Maxine Hall, of Springfield, especially wanted to see a few performers, including Deva Mahal, at the festival.

"I came to hear the music and the dance and the venue is beautiful," she said.

Amherst resident Mari Castaneda and Korina Jocson, of Holyoke, arrived early to see Jesus Pagan & Conjunto Barrio, who play a variety of music including Latin jazz and salsa, but expected to stay for others.

"It is a great place for the community to come together and the acoustics are great," Castaneda said.

The festival was designed to showcase a wide variety of jazz performers including those with roots in blues, classical and African music, said Kristin Neville, executive director of Blues To Green and festival producer.

"We wanted to bring a focus on the richness of the art form," she said.