Jazz festival closes with more music, more dancing – The Olympian

Sunday marked the final day of the America’s Classic Jazz Festival, but you wouldn’t have noticed because it was just another fun-filled day of music and dance.

The longtime festival began Thursday night at Saint Martin’s University, and during the next few days attracted an estimated 2,000 people to listen to music and hit the dance floor. Surprisingly, only about 3 percent of those who attended were from the immediate area, festival director Walt Bowen said.

The reason? The musical groups that perform tend to come from outside the area, and their fans follow them to the festival, he said.

One festival attendee, who took more than one twirl on the dance floor, was Sue MacMichael of Yakima. MacMichael, who will turn 100 next month, said she has been coming to the festival since 2005. She was joined by her companion and dance partner, Bob Speer.

MacMichael said she’s been dancing since she was in the sixth grade, and has been attending Dixieland jazz concerts since the 1980s. She said her interest in Dixieland jazz was hard to define, although she likes the rhythm of the music and added that she dislikes country and western music.

Bowen, president of the Greater Olympia Dixieland Jazz Society — the group that puts on the festival — has been involved with the festival since 1998. He began helping on the sound board, he said, but his involvement grew to the point that he even lends out his various drum kits to the musicians. Three of those kits were being played on Sunday, he said.

At one time Bowen wanted to play piano or saxophone, but he became a drummer by default after his fledgling dance band needed one and he was available. He has been playing drums since 1959, he said.

Although the festival occupies a portion of the university campus, the final shindig — the afterglow party — takes place at Tugboat Annie’s on Olympia’s west side, Bowen said. And it has become one of the more popular aspects of the festival. Late Sunday, the taxis begin to line up to take concertgoers to the west Olympia restaurant for more music. They fill the place, Bowen said.

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