Amy Wiggins

Amy is the lifestyles reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

National Jazz Festival hits Tauranga


People were dancing in the streets, motels were full and there was no shortage of entertainment as festivalgoers enjoyed a little slice of New Orleans in Tauranga.

The National Jazz Festival was held in locations around Tauranga and is to wrap up with a final day of fun at the Historic Village today.

Festival director Becks Chambers said the festival had been a huge success.

"We just had an amazing day at the Jazz Village [yesterday]. I'd say between 7000 and 10,000 people," she said. "It's been pretty busy down on The Strand. Loads of crowds dancing and that."

The Miho Wada, Hurricane Party and Down Home Blues Revue concerts at Baycourt all sold out while most of the other events also had an impressive turnout, she said.

"I'd say it's exceeded expectations really. Just in terms of the entertainment value, I can't think what we could have done much better just in terms of a contrast of music and smiling faces and people dancing.

"We've been very lucky with the weather. It was looking a bit dodgy yesterday morning."

King Country residents Gerald and Zach Chambers, who made the trip to the festival for the first time, had mixed feelings. "The swing dancing I could watch that all day," Mr Chambers said. "I think the festival is misnamed. It should be the music festival. There's very little jazz. The only one we've seen is the Bay City group. That's the true dixie jazz. We've met no end of people saying the same thing."

Much of the music was not his style and he was unlikely to make the trip again next year but the festival as a whole was fantastic, he said.

"This is world class. I think it's a credit to everyone."

Ms Chambers said the festival featured a wide array of jazz styles including some of the best jazz on offer.

"Obviously everybody's got their own opinion.

"Nathan Haines, the New Zealand Army Band you can't get much more jazz than that.

"I guess that's the beauty of jazz, it's so broad."

Mike Hawes, of Tauranga, who has been attending the festival since it started in the 1960s, had heard similar views from friends, although he enjoyed his day at the Jazz Village.

Tauranga residents and Jazz Festival regulars Carl and Muriel Jepsen also raved over the entertainment at the village.

Mr Jepsen said, "We've been here from 10am waiting for the doors to open.

"We really enjoy the kids. They are fantastic."

Mrs Jepsen said the crowd seemed to be smaller than last year's but she preferred that it was not as packed.

Tauranga Motel Association president Gail Fagan said the long weekend had been good for business with Friday and Saturday fully booked throughout the Mount and Tauranga.

There were still plenty of beds available last night, she said.

"There's always lots of things on. Easter's always very good. We don't usually have a problem with patronage over Easter," she said.

Tauranga police Senior Sergeant Simone Mills said everyone had been well behaved during the weekend.

"We've had large numbers, lots of families and nil problems."

A St John Ambulance spokesman said the service also had no problems despite being directly opposite the Jazz Village.

Adams and Gavin and an outfit calling themselves The Self Righteous Brothers were among some of the other acts on show.

More than 60,000 people attended last year's jazz festival events.

Organisers did not yet have a tally for this year's event.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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