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Park City Jazz Festival is on hold

There have been rumblings in recent months that the Park City Jazz Festival is in dire financial straights.

Park City Jazz Foundation (PCJF) Executive Director Don Croce confirmed last week that, indeed, the show will not go on. The board has made the decision to cancel the 2010 festival.

According to Croce, the festival’s current financial situation stems from losing its title sponsor, Fidelity Investments, two years ago. Fidelity gave PCJF plenty of forewarning that they would not renew their sponsorship after the 2007 festival, but the board was not able to find another major sponsor.

The past two years of the festival have been difficult, Croce says. Subaru sponsored the 2009 event, but provided only about half of what Fidelity had in past years.

"When you combine half of your main title sponsor revenues with the worst recessions in yours and my lifetime, that doesn’t set the festival up for success to begin with," he told The Park Record in an interview on Monday.

Croce says the board was ready to cancel the 2010 festival at the beginning of the year, but he felt it was his duty to step up and try to single-handedly save the annual event.

"I knew I was working against the odds," she says. "Time was against me. I essentially had two months to do what couldn’t be done in two years."

Still, Croce was determined to give it a shot. After all, the Jazz Festival is something he holds close to his heart.

When he moved to Park City five years ago, it was the first event he volunteered to help with. As the owner of Livin’ Life Park City on Main Street, he knows the value of events that bring tourists to Park City during summer months. His son, Chris Croce, plays with the Crescent Super Band, a youth jazz band that is sponsored by and performs at the festival.

"I felt like I owed it to our town and to our family to give it a try and see if I could save it," he says. "I put in what I could to try to make it happen. I had a couple of close opportunities, but they just didn’t come through."

He had no choice but to cancel the entire 2010 lineup, which was slated for Aug. 20-22. PCJF had not signed any contractual agreements with performing artists.

Croce says he has to be optimistic that the festival can be revived and return to Park City in the summer of 2011. "I think it’s a great event and when people start hearing that it’s not going to happen, there will be some real disappointment," he says. "I’m hoping that it spurs some interest to give me a hand. I’m sort of counting on some folks to use their networks to help me out."

The top priority right now is finding a title sponsor, he says. "I’m confident I could raise more money once that happens."

Once a title sponsor is secured, Croce says PCJF can focus on fundraising efforts to repay its debt to advertisers, production companies and others that helped with the festival in the past.

"My intention is not to just to have a festival, but to have a festival and have all of our debt paid off as well," he says. "I have no interest in putting on a festival that doesn’t at least begin to make the people who we owe money whole again."

Croce says for the time being, PCJF is not actively pursuing its educational outreach programs, which include in-school clinics, teacher training programs and a jazz education day. "If someone is interested in providing sponsorship or funding for education activities, we’ll gladly help out where we can," he says.

Although the board has stood by Croce in his efforts to salvage the festival, it is currently inactive. "There’s not much reason to meet right now with the current members," Croce explains. "The main goal is the title sponsorship drive. Everything stems from that, and to spend time on other aspects of the Foundation right now just seems to me to be irrelevant."

Croce would like to arrange a smaller event this summer to remind people what it’s like to bring jazz musicians to Park City. "It’s important to me to let people know that we’re still around," he says. "I really want to have something, I just don’t know if I can pull that off."

He hopes that someday the Jazz Festival will continue as one of Park City’s main summer attractions. "At one point, this was one of the top 10 jazz festivals in the country," he says. "We have to get that back."

Those interested in supporting the return of the Park City Jazz Festival may contact Croce at don@parkcityjazz.org or 940-1362. For more information about PCJF, visit http://www.parkcityjazz.org .


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