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Master of Ceremonies,
Jazz Fest West Celebrates 20 years in the Business
By Lea Michelle Cash
Music lovers have flocked by the thousands to Omega Events’ Jazzfest West every summer in numerous park locations for twenty years to hear some of the world’s greatest musicians featuring a mixture of contemporary and classic Jazz, R&B and Soul. Omega Events headed by President & CEO Rich Sherman, currently produces 6 music festivals, including three signature events; the Doheny Blues Festival (May, Dana Point, CA) JazzFest West (July, San Dimas, CA) and Doheny Days (Sept., Dana Point) filled with champions of music.
The JazzFest West extravaganza has been labeled the hottest social gathering of the summer, a giant family reunion, an elaborate collection of beautiful men and women, lovers of music from all walks of life, grooving and dancing, under the warmth of the sun.
This was my first time attending the jazz celebration held on the weekend of July 16 & 17, 2016 at Frank Bonelli Park in San Dimas, hosting music lovers from all over the State of California. I arrived at 3:00 p.m. The park gate opened at 10:00 a.m. Thousands of people were already present and dancing everywhere to the bands playing on two stages to the right (main Stage) and the left (Garden Stage). Food and merchandise vendors were aligned in white tents surrounded by hundreds of lawn chairs and beach umbrellas, short sleeves and sundresses, every color in the rainbow and under the sun.
As the sun was moving to the west, and the afternoon breeze circled bringing a welcomed relief, up close and personal, I witnessed the come as you are, bring a smile, love, peace and happiness affair, the flipside to racial hatred and other troubles that infect our world. A beautiful sight for sore eyes, racial harmony and peace through the beauty of song.
The Master of Ceremonies for the festival was the legendary radio personality and jazz historian Bubba Jackson. The morning personality Pat Prescott of 94.7 the Wave, from time to time shared the stage. Jackson felt it too. He said, “When I listened to the tragedy of two black men and five police officers killed, that broke my spirit. I spoke out about it and many of my listeners thanked me. When I come here today, I am reminded that I love people. And to see them all here, old friends listening to good music and having a wonderful time, together, it is just a beautiful thing.” I agreed.
Jackson has been with Sherman since the early years of his company. “I have never met a promoter like Rich. He listens to his audience,” said Jackson. He continues, “He really cares about giving the audiences the best because they deserve the best.” Vanessa Dean, 60 and her mom, France Dean, 90 of San Bernardino started out with Sherman at the early Jazzfest West held decades ago at Guasti Park in Ontario, and at Fairmount Park in Riverside. “Dreams do come true,” said Dean. “I have witness all the changes from Pasadena to here, and this big venue at Bonelli Park is a dream come true. I love it.”
Love it they must because the dominant summer phenomenon, which has featured Charles Bibbs as the commemorative poster artist for 19 of its 20 years, has strived to bring the best of fan favorites to the stage. Despite financial worries, and locating media sponsors over the years, come what may, Sherman has stayed the course creating a diehard community to keep jazz and music alive. And, Sherman raised in LaVerne contributes his success to a wonderful relationship with Los Angeles County Park and Recreation, and the many JazzWest fans that have supported him. To date Omega Events has presented over 5,000 musicians of various music genres and backgrounds to an estimated growing crowd of over 500,000.
This year the lineup of opened air performances was quite extraordinary. From Boney James to Kindred The Family Souls, to Chante Moore and Mint Condition. Nick Colionne to Pieces of A Dream and Ken Ford all rocked the stage. Day one closing act was R&B legend Patti Labelle, and Day two closing act was Gap Band legend Charlie Wilson. The star-studded festival was amazing!