There’s a swing in the step of the Merimbula Jazz Festival Committee with the news that pre-registrations for the festival, which takes place over the June long weekend, June 7-10, are up by 40 per cent on last year.
President of the Jazz Festival Committee, Bruce Munchenberg, told the News Weekly: “Already there are more people booked for the festival than attended in total last year, although the majority of people tend to turn up on the Thursday or Friday prior to the start of the festival.”
Jazz committee member, Kevin Walsh also volunteers in the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre and said that accommodation bookings had been going well.
“We have 280 musicians in school bands and quite often they will be accompanied by mum and dad and so it’s easy to see how accommodation can fill up quickly.”
This was confirmed by VIC manager, Reneal Schreiber, who said: “This is an iconic event for Merimbula and we started to receive our first bookings for the festival back in January.
“Substantial numbers of bookings have been received through the VIC but some availability still exists and there are some great deals from some of our accommodation providers,” Ms Schreiber said.
The event is a real fillip at a time when it would normally be quiet and is estimated to bring close on $2 million into the town.
The financial benefit of the festival isn’t lost on CEO of Club Sapphire, Damien Foley who said: “It is fair to say that from a trade perspective the jazz festival is the busiest three consecutive days of the year. Christmas is bigger but there are no bigger three consecutive days.
“Without the jazz it would be very quiet; it’s a great thing for the town, just amazing,” Mr Foley said.
Now, in its 33rd year, the Merimbula Jazz Festival is one of the longest running jazz events in Australia and attracts bands from all over but there is a limit and the committee has had to turn away some bands as they reached capacity several weeks ago.
There are 149 bands in the festival, of which 23 are big bands and Mr Munchenberg has the onerous task of programming the event to ensure that band members have enough time to get from one venue to the next gig. Although he has a computer program to check for clashes of times, he said that he still needs to write it out on a big chart and visually check for any problems.
Behind the scenes there is an enormous amount of planning put in by the eight member festival committee who start meeting in late October to organise the next event in the following June.
Mr Munchenberg said: “After that it’s continual and there are many hundreds of hours of work that go into the event.”
In addition to the festival committee, there are 80 volunteers from the Down South Jazz Club and the general community who stage manage, compere and assist with registrations and sales of raffle tickets.
Volunteer co-ordinator, Aileen Walsh said: “They all give up their time to ensure the success and smooth running of the festival.”
Merimbula Rotary Club is also assisting with stage management and the Robin Hood Service Club organises door duty among its own members and some of the other service groups in town such as Merimbula Lions.
As well as music in eight venues, there will also be a parade which is starting 30 minutes earlier at 10.30am, this year to allow marching musicians to get to their first afternoon gig in good time.
This will be followed by the ‘Big Blow’ at the car park on Beach Street.
Saturday evening will see the Jazz Quest for musicians under 25 years take place in the Lakeview Hotel and that will be followed by ‘Bebop and beyond’ the late night jam session which will run from 11.40pm to 2am on Saturday night.
The very popular ecumenical jazz service will take place at St Joseph’s Catholic Church on Sunday, at 11.30am and is usually an opportunity to hear some wonderful gospel singing.
Monday is when the jazz picnic takes place at the Pambula Merimbula Golf Club.
Shuttle buses will be available to take festival attendees to and from the venues and bus timetables will be posted in both the program and at the local clubs.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.merimbulajazz.org.au or at Twyford Hall.