On Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 25-29, the 36th Annual San Diego Jazz Fest is taking over the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley . The festival, presented by the America's Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society, will feature over 35 bands and artists from San Diego and across the county.
San Diego's High Society Jazz Band and Sue Palmer & her Motel Swing Orchestra will set the tone on Wednesday night. On Thursday afternoon, guests can enjoy a Thanksgiving buffet while listening to jazz performances. Six bands will also play sets from 6 - 11 p.m. But the tempo will pick up on Friday and Saturday, when all styles of jazz will fill seven venues-five of which have dance floors-throughout the resort.
"Visitors can expect an amazing array of music," said Myrna Goodwin, secretary of the AFCDJS Board of Directors. "We've got traditional New Orleans jazz, boogie-woogie, rockabilly, swing, ragtime, zydeco, plus gospel music on Sunday."
This year, the highlight of the festival is likely to be the "Swing Dance Extravaganza," happening Saturday night in the Golden Ballroom. Goodwin said it will feature a battle of the bands between Stompy Jones and Jonathan Stout and his Campus 5, plus the festival's first ever swing dance contest, with a $500 cash prize. "These are two really well-known swing bands," she said. "It will be an exciting draw for people from all over." The dance contest will officially start at 8 p.m., but other swing bands, including the Red Skunk Band, Sweethearts of Swing and others, will start "warming up" the crowd at 3:15.
For those who'd like to brush up on their Balboa or Lindy Hop steps before the contest, there will also be swing dance lessons on Friday and Saturday morning.
Swing not your thing? Not to worry. Goodwin said the variety of music means there will be something for everyone. "It's going constantly, especially Friday and Saturday. One band after another moves in and out on a regular basis," she said.
There will be just as much variety among the festival guests. "We're really amazed at the diversity that's starting to come, especially the wider age ranges," Goodwin said. She noted that in the early days of the festival, most guests were from out of town, but now they're seeing more San Diego locals. They also offer discounted tickets for guests under 30. "That's allowed us to pick up more swing dancers," she said.
Three-, four-, and five-day badges are available, as well as single-day passes (prices vary each day). Free admission is offered to active duty military (with ID) and children under 12 when accompanied by an adult. Passes may be purchased online at www.sdjazzfest.org or at the resort during the festival.