ELKHART — The 32nd annual Elkhart Jazz Festival was just warming up Friday as thousands of people flocked to the Civic Plaza and Central Park.

The festival officially opened with warm weather serving as the perfect accompaniment to the open-air concerts. Indoor shows were planned too. The event will continue through Sunday.

Organizers estimated that the event would draw at least 15,000 audience members to the downtown area over the course of the weekend.

Before the opening ceremony, local band Crossroads Sextet – a group of college and recent high school graduates – hit the main stage to play a few tunes.

Adam Peterson, a drummer for the band and a recent graduate of Concord High School, said this is his third year performing for Jazz Festival, and each year it gets more exciting.

“It’s really cool to be right downtown on the main stage,” Peterson said. “The audience here has a lot of energy, and they’re just a great crowd to perform for.”

The 18-year-old said he had three more gigs at the festival, but as an attendee, he’s most looking forward to hearing Truth in Jazz

“Some of the drummers for (Truth in Jazz) have been former teachers of mine, given me private lessons, so I’m just really excited to hear them play and everyone overall,” he said. “This is always a great event.”

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese opened the festival by welcoming the hundreds of attendees in the audience. He also provided good news for Elkhart.

“I have it on good authority that some of America’s great jazz cities that include New Orleans, Memphis, Kansas City and Chicago have all declared that this weekend, Elkhart is the Jazz Capital of the U.S.”

He also encouraged attendees, while enjoying the music, to visit local restaurants and businesses that are within walking distance.

The festival kicked off Friday with Truth in Jazz hitting the stage after Neese opened the ceremony. The band was formed in 1998 by the Elkhart Truth and is comprised of 21 musicians throughout Michiana.

“This is our 21st year performing here, and it’s just the highlight of our year,” said Steve Allen, director of Truth in Jazz and lead trumpet player. “We perform tonight, tomorrow and we perform the closing act, so we’re the local band that is just ready to go.”

The three-day festival will feature about 40 bands, more than 100 sets of music and 170 musicians.

Headliners this year include Gregory Porter, The Hot Sardines with special guest Davina & the Vagabonds, and the Airmen of Note USAF.

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