Yelm, it is true, does not have an Eiffel Tower. But it does have a famous water tower; throw in some outdoor jazz, tasty food and a beer and wine garden and guests at the 2018 Jazz in the Park Festival may imagine themselves transported to Europe. “We want to make everybody feel like they are in Paris,” says festival organizer and founder Marian Licxandru, who owns Pizzeria La Gitana restaurants in both Olympia and Yelm.
Mayor J.W. Foster, meanwhile, has run out of superlatives to describe this year’s outdoor Jazz concert scheduled for August 4th at Yelm City Park. “It’s going to bigger and better,” he says, “with even more fun and more community than last year.” Also, don’t worry about the weather. Foster notes that he’s special ordered a perfect day just for the occasion.
Pizzeria La Gitana is again co-hosting the free festival in conjunction with the City of Yelm and this year will bring a few changes, including later starting and ending times (5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). “We got great feedback last year and one of the only issues was that people wished it were longer,” says Licxandru. “We’re going to begin when the weather is starting to cool down.”
Gas firepits, patio heaters and string lights will keep guests warm and increase visibility, and again the Wine Cellar of Yelm will provide a wine and beer garden. Local vendors Rawk Star Creations and Masonry Cafe will supply food options along with the Yelm Lions Club, which will run a burger stand out of the Yelm Community Center. For kids, ice cream and kettle corn will be available along with a face painting booth.
This year’s lineup will feature different musicians, all of whom perform at one or both of Pizzeria La Gitana’s locations. Last year jazz vocalist Susan Tuzzolini attended as a guest. “I was there for the whole day,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful way to spend a summer afternoon, sitting under the shade and watching kids running around.” This year, she’ll be performing.
Mucho Gusto, another La Gitana regular, will perform as well. String bassist and vocalist Loree Gardener says events like this are appealing to musicians. “Most of us like to play for a larger group of people in a public setting. Marian is such a sweet man and it’s great that he always provides live music at his venue. Who could say no to him when he’s organizing a festival?”
Like many Olympia musicians, Fred Griesman plays with multiple groups and ensembles. He picked up music after he retired and now joins the American Legion Concert Band and other groups to play at locations like the Olympia Senior Center. “It’s very rewarding and exciting to be able to provide entertaining music for your audience at events like this,” he says.
Local businesses Today’s Dental Center, Olympia Federal Savings, JZ Rose and are the main sponsors. Many other companies have supported the festival by posting notices on their tables and counters and Steve Handlan of Salamander Graphix donated all graphics for the event. “The Yelm Starbucks allowed us to put fliers on all their tables. Getting exposure at their location means a lot,” says Licxandru. “Over 5,000 stickers promoting the event have been placed on coffee sleeves at different drive-thrus in the community by volunteers. The community support has been fantastic.”
Mucho Gusto’s Gardener believes the festival is a good way to expose kids to music they might not normally have the opportunity to hear. “A lot of musicians just play in bars,” she notes. “This is a way to celebrate summer and maybe inspire a young person to pick up an instrument or dance or sing.”
It’s also a way to bring different aspects of the community together, observes Mayor Foster. “What I really like about these events is that you may have two people who are living next door to each other but have never met. They run into each other at something like this and now they have a wonderful shared memory.”
But Oleg Ruvinov, bass player and founder of New Age Flamenco, sees a bigger potential, comparing it to DjangoFest, the largest celebration of gypsy jazz music in North America. The festival started small on Whidbey Island 18 years ago and now attracts musicians from around the world, featuring five days of concerts and workshops. “I would like to see this festival go to the state and even national level,” says Ruvinov. “It would bring more success to Yelm.”
Meanwhile, Licxandru anticipates a strong turn out on August 4. “Everyone we talked to last year was grateful and looking forward to this year,” he says. “It’s a free event so you can bring a picnic basket and save your money for a flight to Paris.”For more information about the 2018 Yelm Jazz in the Park Festival, visit the event Facebook page.