PA chamber’s first jazz festival ends on high note

PORT ANGELES — The weekend was filled with jiving to traditional jazz music throughout Port Angeles.

The ninth annual Jazz in the Olympics Festival drew between 1,500 and 2,000 people from Thursday night through Sunday, said Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“Our venues could hold a total of about 1,500 people and there were multiple times when all of the venues were completely full, and there are always other people out roaming around town,” he said.

It was the first year the chamber had managed the event and preparations for next year’s event are already in the works, festival director Vanessa Shearer said.

“This year’s festival was a fantastic success,” Shearer said.

“People were having a fantastic time, smiling,  happy and dancing.

“I have had nothing but rave reviews.”

The festival wrapped up on Sunday after four days of events at multiple venues, with the Vern Burton Community Center being the main venue.

The Port Angeles festival draws people from all over who are interested in traditional jazz.

Kyle Murray of Victoria and Gina Keppel of Seattle were practicing their dance moves Sunday afternoon.

Neither had attended the Port Angeles festival before, but have been to jazz festivals all over the West Coast.

“I’ve been dancing for about eight years now,” Murray said.

“In the last few years, a couple who goes to all of these types of festivals have been getting everyone interested in the ’20s and ’30s Dixieland jazz.”

Before, he had been familiar with dance associated more with swing, he said.

“They have some amazing musicians here and it is mostly traditional jazz,” Keppel said.

Keppel said she had been dancing for about five years.

Both said that they had known about the Port Angeles festival for years, because it was well-known in jazz circles.

The bands come from all over; for example, the High Sierra Jazz Band from Three Rivers, Calif., entertained throughout the festival.

“This festival is really well-known for those who are fans of traditional jazz,” said Pieter Meijers, leader of the band.

Meijers said he has played music since he was 6, and played jazz since he was about 15.

He has been part of the High Sierra Jazz Band for about 32 years.

“We’ve been coming to the festival for the last eight years,” he said.

He said they’d back next year.

He said this year’s festival was the “best ever.”

Barbara and Clarence Leingang said they come for the bands.

“We grew up in the 1950s, so we caught the tail end of the movement,” Barbara said.

“We come for the nostalgia.”

Both are musicians, Clarence said, adding that he plays the accordion and Barbara plays the piano.

“We like to hear all of the bands, and I, of course, love dancing with [her],” Clarence said.

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