By John Matthews
The inaugural Railroad Square Art and Smooth Jazz Festival remained lively, despite an underwhelming audience turnout.
The two-day, multigenerational festival held last month featured jazz musicians, food vendors, artwork and other activities at Railroad Square Art Park.
The event was sponsored by Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency, The Yard, Hampton Inn and Suites Tallahassee Capitol and Mary’s Visions Folk Art Museum and Gallery.
Mary’s Visions is a nonprofit organization founded in 2011 under the auspices of Mary Proctor and her husband, Tyrone Proctor, with the goal of socially impacting the North Florida region through art.
“Since its inception, Mary’s Visions and Folk Art Museum and Gallery, Inc. has made great strides to become a catalyst in our area established for the purpose of increasing awareness and importance of the arts through presentations, displays, workshops, and information dissemination,” Mary Proctor said in a statement.
Unfortunately, 2019’s inaugural Railroad Square Art and Smooth Jazz Festival was competing with other annual events such as Florida State University’s Garnet and Gold spring game, as well as Florida A&M University’s STEM Day, which were held on the same day.
These ongoing events, coupled with gloomy weather, led Jennifer Donald, Mary’s Visions’ event coordinator and hostess, to voice her frustration.
“We were hoping to get more of a crowd. We felt that it was a good venue. It was a free event, however, there was so much going on this weekend,” Donald said. “But, for the most part all our performers showed up and used different mediums like social media and flyers to get the word out. Just so much competition.”
Despite the modest attendance, many of the jazz musicians focused on delivering dynamic musical performances rather than searching for an audience.
Josh Rivers, a FSU graduate student and jazz musician, described the festival along with his performance.
“I knew the event was in its first year. So, the crowd turnout was better than I thought it would be, it was chill. I’ve performed in many places. Whether a packed house or a few people, it doesn’t really matter. I just try to give a consistent performance no matter what I’m doing,” Rivers said.
In addition to the performers not allowing the lack of crowd to affect them, many food vendor employees also enjoyed themselves.
“Even though there’s not a lot of business here, at least I get to hear the music or I’m able to see people walking by just enjoying the event,” said Alexus Manners, a Lincoln High School student and Caribbean Crossroads employee.
Ultimately, the festival managed to deliver a high-spirited atmosphere during a busy weekend.
“We had a great time despite the weather and the crowd. It was a great time,” said Donald.