Zue poses happily at Jazz Fest. Photo bySofia Garcia

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Vibrant stage setups and a relaxed ambience fused together, cultivating the scenery for The 36th Annual San Antonio Jazz Alive Festival. Travis Park served as a public space for an atmosphere comprised of music, food and local businesses. With bands like Tomar and The FC’s, Will Owen Gage and the Alamotones and Lao Tizer on the main stage, the sea of people in the crowd had a mutual, rhythmic connection to the music. One of the best parts of this festival was that jazz enthusiasts could turn around and enjoy the Tech Tempo stage claimed by Rat King Cole and Tony Romero and The Spiders. In addition to seeing the talented musicians put on breathtaking shows, San Antonio locals and tourists could enjoy scrumptious food and shop for souvenirs. Top hats and blazers could be spotted from blocks away and it was apparent that the Jazz Alive Fest had come to the iconic scene known as downtown San Antonio.

As soon as I saw the “road closed” signs at the intersection of two streets, I knew I was in the right place for expanding my horizons and becoming more acquainted with the San Antonio community. In the midst of whistles coming from police officers directing traffic and applause from the crowd; the joyful laughter expressed from people dancing filled my ears.

I tend to gravitate towards the cultural and artistic aspect of events like this, so I peered into the tents of San Antonians showcasing their local businesses to the public. One business that was so immersed in the fluidity of its owner’s culture caught my eye. I was inexplicably drawn to the dazzling handmade creations displayed by George and Betty Kwakuyi from Ghana. Welcomed with smiles, the couple told me about their inspiration for selling their jewelry, clothing and paintings.

“The Jazz Alive Fest is a wonderful place to share our art with the public because the people here are so kind and interested,” Betty shared.

After my cheerful exchange with the owners of Delali Artworks, I moved on with a camera in hand and began to converse with the kind entrepreneurs lining the park sidewalk. My love for these wholesome events grew after meeting a couple whose son created homemade granola for his mother who has diabetes, stopping her from consuming copious amounts of sugar. Alma and Chuck Drew explained Chef Tim’s vision for his granola business.

“Tim aims to cater to clients with medical issues and accommodates to the health of others because of the fact that I have diabetes. He told me that he wanted me to have a snack that I could always count on,” said Alma.

Stories like these warm my heart and allow me to take on the perspective of hardworking business owners. To continue with my experience, I met with Roxanne Porter, owner of Mi Cocinita. Her booth was decorated with signs indicating she sold mangonadas and chicken on a stick, which were absolutely mouthwatering. Porter explained to me that she has been a business owner for five years and the Jazz Alive Fest is one of her favorites to attend.

“The exposure and local culture makes my job so enjoyable. My time as a business owner has been the best five years and I am so happy to be here,” Porter exclaimed with a cheery smile.

During the last stop before I sat down to enjoy the beautiful mixture of guitars and saxophones, I spoke with the owners of a gordita stand. It was easy to see that this family affair was one of the main attractions at Jazz Alive. Francisco Dueñes and his lovely family worked diligently to provide food for the hungry blues lovers and told me that they had been serving the downtown community for six years.

“Although fiesta is my favorite event to attend, I always enjoy hearing the music and serving the people of my community,” Dueñes said.

Visiting with the local business owners and being able to see the passion for events in San Antonio allowed me to put down my journal and admire the flow of harmonious music that brought a multitude of people together. As I listened to the musicians play their sets, the lead singer of the Alamotones used a combination of words that perfectly conveyed the aura of the festival. “Keep doing your thing, San Antonio! You are so unique and beautiful and I am proud to be here.”

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