ELKHART — Sitting still was not an easy task for jazz lovers.

There were plenty of toes tapping and heads bobbing as a growing crowd packed into downtown for the second day of the 32nd annual Elkhart Jazz Festival on Saturday.

The three-day festival included a number of outdoor and indoor shows from about 40 bands and more than 170 musicians from across the globe.

It attracted several longtime attendees as well as some new visitors for a weekend of music and what many called fun.

Elkhart resident Barbara Twichell has been coming to the festival for the past 10 years and said it’s an event she most looks forward to each year.

“There’s nothing else like it – great people, great atmosphere and most importantly, great music,” Twichell said.

The 85-year-old didn’t hesitate when asked which performer she was looking forward to seeing.

“I love Dave Bennett,” she said while waiting for Bennett’s quartet to begin in the Lerner Theatre auditorium. “He’s an amazing musician and always gives a great show.”

Lynn McDowell, of Indianapolis, came for her first time with friend Celeste Freeman.

The two were visibly impressed as they sat and watched the Henry Johnson Quartet on South Main Street.

“This festival is just absolutely fabulous and all the musicians are very talented,” McDowell said. “I also really appreciate how the festival is condensed making it easy to navigate and go from venue to venue.”

Kalamazoo residents Bruce Kraker and his wife, Lorraine, have been coming to the festival off and on since its inception in 1988.

“We just love jazz music and unfortunately in Kalamazoo, the city is devoid of jazz,” said Lorraine.

“It’s always a good time when we come,” said Bruce. “The bands are good and the people are very nice.”

Although Daren Karenke isn’t the biggest fan of jazz, the Elkhart native said the festival is still an event he enjoys attending each year. 

“It’s always a fun and relaxing event,” he said. “There’s good food, live outdoor music and a good time to socialize and meet up with people you have not seen in a while.”

The festival kicked off Friday with Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese announcing that the city has been declared Jazz Capital of the U.S. for the weekend.

The event will conclude on Sunday with about 20 musical acts, beginning with the VIP Jazz Brunch and Alfonso Ponticelli in the Lerner Theatre Crystal Ballroom and the Elkhart Community Choir, the first free concert of the day, at 10 a.m. at the Civic Plaza. Truth in Jazz, Sammy Miller and the Congregation, Charlie Ballantine, The Dean’s list and the United States Air Force Airmen Note are among performers closing out the festivities.

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

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