Grant St Jazz Fest

The Grant St Jazz Fest is a popular annual festival held in downtown Bloomington, Indiana. It features a free all-day lineup of local musicians along with food, beer, and wine sold by local vendors. It has continued on for four years, and has grown to a new location in the Bloomington Town Square as the B’Town Jazz Fest.

Grant St Jazz Fest by the Numbers:

Event length: 15 hoursGSJF2013Logo
Number of vendors: 4
Number of bands: 11 (45 musicians)
Vendor sales: $4,400
Attendees: 2,800 (approx.)
Number of sponsors: 11
Volunteers: 35
Sponsor fundraising: $5,500
Email list signups: 650

The Story of the Grant St Jazz Fest:

The story of the Grant St Jazz Fest began in spring 2012 when I became involved with the nonprofit organization Jazz from Bloomington. During one of our meetings, it was proposed that we hold some sort of block party in downtown Bloomington to showcase the local jazz talent. Recognizing this great opportunity to share jazz with the community, I took the idea and began bringing it to life.

As I soon found out, there was no clear starting point. Ultimately, I figured out how to deal with the many moving parts involved in organizing a festival from the ground up, including:

– Obtaining the necessary approvals from the city, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, and the local police, fire, and excise departments
– Arranging equipment rentals for tents, staging, seating, restrooms and fencing
– Booking the band lineup and hiring a sound and lighting technician
– Recruiting and managing volunteers throughout the event, including setup and teardown
– Working directly with vendors and sponsors to raise donations and create vending agreements that would fund the festival
– Promoting the festival, including creating and distributing fliers and handbills; interviewing at local newspapers, magazines, and radio stations; and contributing to social media accounts and a festival website

After months of planning, the inaugural Grant St Jazz Fest occurred in August 2012. Due to an enthusiastic reception from the community, the musicians, and our sponsors, the Grant St Jazz Fest attracted many new faces interested in volunteering with the preparation for 2013’s event. My goal for the second year was to create detailed documentation and delegate the work I had done in 2012 so that the Grant St Jazz Fest could become a sustainable event that would continue after my departure from Bloomington.

The Grant St Jazz Fest is truly a team effort that would not have worked without the contributions of many individuals, including our sponsors and vendors, city officials, and volunteers. In particular, it could not have happened without the support of Jazz from Bloomington, which received recognition from Downtown Bloomington Inc. in the form of their Volunteers of the Year award in 2014, largely due to the success of the Grant St Jazz Fest.

Looking back, I consider myself lucky to have been involved in something that developed my ability and interest in managing large, complex events while giving back to the community.