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2010 Carefusion Newport Jazz Festival

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Since 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, has presented world class acts packed into a handful days each summer. The festival, established by impresario George Wein, became the first of its kind, and similar outdoor summer jazz festivals have since popped up throughout the world. Through glitches and transformations, the Newport Jazz Festival has persisted, and has become one of the most important events in jazz.

After the economic crisis hit in 2008, the fate of the festival became uncertain. In 2007, Wein sold Festival Productions, his company, to Festival Network, although he continued to have stake in the development of Newport as well as the many offshoots of the festival. However, the venue for the festival in past years, Fort Adams State Park, recently canceled its contract with Festival Network.

In early April, 2009, George Wein announced that a jazz festival would occur in Newport with or without the help of Festival Network or corporate sponsorships. Later that year, after JVC pulled out as a sponsor for the annual New York City festival, Carefusion, a medical supply company, stepped in. It will sponsor the 2010 Newport Jazz Festival, which will take place from August 8th through 10th. And so, in spite of the problems it has faced, the tradition of a large jazz festival in Newport continues.

History of the Newport Jazz Festival:

In 1954, when George Wein presented the first Newport Jazz Festival, 11,000 people showed up to the Newport Casino to hear Bille Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.

In the years immediately following, Wein attempted to continue the festival despite having difficulty finding a venue. The Newport Casino could not hold such a large event, and many affluent Newport residents opposed the festival, as it tended to attract rowdy youngsters. Racism also stood as an obstacle, and the fact that the festival brought African-American audiences to a predominantly white town was the cause of some grumbling.

Bigger Crowds, Bigger Problems

The Festival continued, and as the crowds grew, so did the risk of problems. In 1960, the National Guard had to be summoned to calm a disruptive group of audience members. Afterwards, it seemed that the festival would no longer exist.

Although no festival was staged in 1961, Wein brought it back the following year. The festival continued to grow throughout the 1960s, and in an attempt to attract a new generation of young people, also began incorporating popular acts that strayed from the traditional jazz programming. In 1969, the lineup included Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Jethro Tull, Sly and the Family Stone, and James Brown.

Some Kool Schlitz

The following decade brought two major advancements. For one, Wein brought the festival to New York City in 1972, where the concerts were spread throughout several venues. While eventually the festival moved back to Newport, Wein continued to hold an annual festival in New York, as well as in other cities, such as Saratoga Springs, New York. The 1970s also marked the beginning of corporate sponsorships of large music festivals. Schlitz beer and Kool cigarettes were two early sponsors of Wein’s jazz festivals.

For more information about George Wein’s Carefusion Newport Jazz Festival, visit the website.

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