Get those picnic blankets ready, Yelm.

On August 5, Yelm City Park will host the first ever Jazz in the Park event from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. featuring local musicians, a beer and wine garden, and food options ranging from bring-your-own picnic baskets to food trucks.

“Live jazz plus a sunny day equals a good mood,” says Pizzeria La Gitana owner Marian Licxandru. “You can just lay on your blanket, bring your kids or grandkids, and listen to some music in the park.”

Licxandru came up with the idea after noticing how popular weekly jazz nights are at his restaurant’s Yelm location. “We have people who come on a Saturday night and stay for two hours,” he says. “I thought, ‘What if we did something where people can gather, bring their blanket and have one of those nice evenings with good music where the admission is free? I see it as a gift for the community. This community is very generous with us and we want to give back as much as possible.”

Red and Ruby
The August 5 event will be a chance for local jazz lovers to enjoy groups like Red & Ruby. Photo courtesy: Red & Ruby

He first floated the idea past Yelm Mayor JW Foster. “He approached me and it was one of those ‘aha’ moments,” says Foster. “We haven’t had anything like this in Yelm before, but why wouldn’t that be a great idea? The park is the perfect venue for it.”

Foster helped to get the necessary permits and brought in other city officials to support the idea. The Yelm Business Association got involved and sponsors began to line up including Prairie Park Hotel and Conference Center, which is the event’s main sponsor, plus Olympia Federal Savings, and JZ Knight. “We wanted to keep it free,” says Licxandru, “but we needed to be able to pay the bands and cover the marketing so the sponsorships really help.” The Triad Theater and Uptown Lounge at Yelm Cinemas have helped with marketing materials.

Jessica Blinn
The Jessica Blinn Quartet will also be part of the lineup at Yelm City Park. Photo courtesy: Jessica Blinn

Five bands will complete the lineup, including several that regularly play at Pizzeria La Gitana’s Olympia and Yelm locations:  Red & Ruby, The Jessica Blinn Quartet, and  Choro Tomorrow. Licxandru believes the community will support the event. “We have people living in Yelm from all over the world and music is something that really brings people together,” he says. “The town has its own theater where they create plays and people act for free because they want to be part of that. I think that shows a lot about the potential of the community.”

Admission to the event is free, but for those who want to purchase wine or beer, Anne Marsh of The Wine Cellar of Yelm, based at the Yelm Food Co-op, will be on hand while Tamale Fusion will provide locally and organically sourced tamales from their food truck. Another group will be offering food from the new Yelm Community Center’s kitchen.

This year the event will last just one day, but Licxandru would like to see it expand. “Hopefully next year we can have it run from Friday night through Sunday night and use at least two different parks,” he says. “It’s a chance to highlight what’s here in Yelm.  I hope it becomes a yearly event.”

Choro Tomorrow
Choro Tomorrow often plays at the La Gitana Yelm and Olympia locations. Photo courtesy: La Gitana

That would be fine with Mayor Foster. “We have a beautiful hotel here in Yelm, good restaurants, a great trail system, and arguably the best view of Mt. Rainier in the area,” he says. “The jazz festival will be a perfect opportunity for people to discover that.”

Excitement about the event is growing, and several people have asked about where to spend the night in the city. “We’re expecting a great turnout,” says Foster. “From the city’s perspective, there’s a lot of benefits to bringing people in. If they come here, they’ll see what else we have to offer. They’ll go to a restaurant, buy their fuel, and little by little it will improve the economic vitality of the business community.”

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