The sun was shining, the tunes were flowing and the crowds were grooving as Tauranga's 57th annual National Jazz Festival's 'downtown carnival' got under way today.

With the sparkling waters of Tauranga Moana in the background, The Strand came alive with thousands of jazz-lovers from all over coming down to catch the sweet tunes.

Natalia Lunson and Steve Mills were a part of Alexander Avenue, a crowd-favourite at today's event.

Mills said the crowd was massive and had loads of people dancing and grooving along to the tunes.

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He said through laughter that two little girls danced throughout their whole set and they were considering hiring them as back-up dancers with their great moves.

Lunson said it was such a beautiful day for the event and they loved getting up there for such an involved audience.

The downtown carnival was described by organisers as "Tauranga's biggest day of the year" and a massive party that locals would be crazy to miss.

Nabbing a seat at any of the bordering cafes, restaurants or bars was near impossible, as people jumped at the opportunity to enjoy good food and a drink while watching some of the top national and international jazz musicians.

Jazz gems including Hollie Smith, Secret Islands Sexet, Allana Goldsmith and Bella Kalolo will grace audiences at six venues across Tauranga during the four-day festival, that runs from Thursday through to Easter Sunday.

The downtown carnival will be happening again tomorrow, starting with the Little Big Markets from 10am and music from 12pm to 6pm.

Entry is by gold coin and all children under 14 get in free.