June Festival to go on | AspenTimes.com

June Festival to go on

Stewart Oksenhorn

Downtown Aspen hasn’t heard the last notes of Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Festival. Though the Aspen City Council turned down the organization’s request to move its early summer festival closer to the Fourth of July holiday, JAS will present its 16th annual June Festival from June 22-25 in Rio Grande Park. Despite some noncommittal sentiments at Tuesday’s council meeting, the idea of pulling the plug on the festival has not been an option for JAS organizers.”We were never considering not doing it, no,” said Jim Horowitz, Jazz Aspen’s founder and executive producer.Instead, Horowitz said he would continue in his efforts to persuade the city to permit the festival to move to the busier Fourth of July weekend. Council members expressed concern about holding the four-day festival, whose main tent holds 3,000 concertgoers, during a time already crowded with tourists. But Horowitz says the larger holiday crowds would just mean better participation in a signature event. Beyond the boost to Jazz Aspen, he envisions a rescheduled June Festival at the center of an ambitious Aspen cultural happening. Horowitz has what he calls a “Spoleto vision,” modeled after the Italian festival that includes music, theater, cinema, dance and more.”A 10-day, multidisciplinary arts festival involving all the major arts organizations – then you have a really major, interesting event,” Horowitz said. “That’s my vision.”Horowitz said he was not dissatisfied with the June Festival, which moved to Aspen in 2004 after 11 years in Snowmass Village. Holding the festival in downtown Aspen brought it closer to his original vision for Jazz Aspen, modeled after France’s Jazz in Marciac. The downtown setting meant more opportunities for late-night performances, early day free concerts, in-town dining and a pedestrian-friendly experience. Horowitz was particularly pleased with the series of JAS After Dark concerts at the Belly Up nightclub.”It’s more in the spirit of what I saw in Marciac 18 years ago,” Horowitz said. “That’s still a model that’s powerful.”While ending the festival and moving it to July 4 are both off the table for now, Horowitz expects to try some smaller things to increase attendance and add vitality. Last year the June Festival, which usually features jazz, blues and pop, featured reggae for the first time, with a performance by Steel Pulse. In the short term, fans can expect similar small-scale changes.”We’ll be tinkering with different aspects for a while,” Horowitz said. “But nothing more than tinkering.”No acts have been scheduled yet for the 2006 June Festival. Jazz Aspen also presents the annual Labor Day Festival, an outdoor event that has featured such big draws as Neil Young, Bob Dylan and, this summer, Widespread Panic. Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com