Monroe brings small town atmosphere to big-time jazz festival

Monroe brings small town atmosphere to big-time jazz festival

MONROE, MI (WTOL) - Monroe's River Raisin Jazz Festival has been attracting jazz fans from across the Midwest and Canada for seventeen years.

The best part of it all, aside from the music, is it's free.

But why Monroe?

Keyboardist Gregg Karukus was one of the headliners on Sunday at a packed Monroe's St. Mary's Park.

The two day festival has audience members swinging and swaying in what's become one of the area's biggest cultural events of the summer.

Over a two day period forty thousand people will come to put heads to beds.

Hotels, restaurants and bars fill up for the weekend for a festival that's staged along the banks of the scenic River Raisin.

"It's a wonderful location. Very peaceful. Very quiet. Very calm," said Richard Clair of Detroit.

Richard's wife Gloria says the people match the setting.

"Nice crowd of people. Very friendly," said Gloria.

You might not think of Monroe as a big jazz hub, but festival artistic director and jazz flautist Alexander Zonjic says it's an 'if you build it they will come' philosophy for attracting fans.

He's staging ten jazz events this year in smaller communities.

"They not only discover a great world class event but discover a cool town. Key to all this: it's free," said Zonjic.

Free because of ongoing corporate supporters who believe in the Monroe community.

Brad Schreiber of the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau says any town can pull off a festival like this.

"I think so. I think if they get a bunch of people that believe in something and rally behind it and get some sponsors behind together I think every community can do it," said Schreiber.

And that successful 'can do' spirit is evident every year the second weekend of August in Monroe.

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