UPDATE II: JazzFest Killed

UPDATE II: I’m hearing from a couple of sources that the executive director of SFJB actually resigned last week. I’m not sure if that is true, since he is still listed on their webpage, but it may explain why they decided to pull back. Most people may not know it, but planning for JF takes all year, and the most of the acts are already booked by January or February, they may have done no plans. If anyone knows differently let me know.

UPDATE: The story going around is that JF lost significant money this past year, which doesn’t surprise me. Having to pay for generators, bad weather damaging stuff, no major acts and having the headliner cancel probably did it in. I’ve even heard they are so broke from it that they may have to hand over the concert series they hold at the Orpheum to the Pavilion management, but we will have to see what happens. I think they ‘could’ bring it back in 2021 but would still need to do something like a small Saturday night concert this summer and bill it as a ‘mini’ JF just to keep it relevant. But with the money situation, I’m not sure if that is even possible.

I also have heard that people are blaming Mayor TenHaken because of the proposed ordinance to charge for police assistance. I guess he has been on the horn with certain people mad about the blame game. I won’t defend PTH on much, but it really isn’t his fault. Sure the proposal is stupid and ridiculous, but the city council hasn’t ironed out the details yet and may vote it down anyway IF it is even brought forward. So while the ordinance proposal is moronic, it hasn’t happened yet. I was actually surprised he was so annoyed with it, I would just blow it off.

As you have heard in the news, JazzFest has ended (but will consider doing it in 2021). I think once you go there, you can never recover.

It saddens me for several reasons, I assisted with JF for several years in different roles with graphic design work, helping to design the logo two years, and designing countless other items for them. It was always a tradition for me, for at least 20 years. I will miss it.

Some think it may have to do with the city council considering charging for police assistance, but I think it really has to do with all the problems from this past festival and low attendance, and former director Rob Joyce leaving. It of course has never been the same since Janoct Adja died 🙂 We may never know. I think that this city has been going towards more ‘family friendly’ festivals lately (not that JF wasn’t) and it is just hard to put on these kind of large events anymore.

I actually think the city council has the votes to either kill the police ordinance, or at least reduce the proposed fee of $70 an hour per officer significantly. I would like for them to pass an ordinance that only charges ‘For-Profit’ events for police assistance and leave the non-profit’s exempt.

As we know these events bring in huge economic impact that can cover the police costs, it is just a matter of the city budgeting for it and paying the officers for these duties. Which is easily done instead of continuing to screw the police union.

Isn’t ironic that our mayor was in DC yesterday bragging about how he doesn’t want to burden the FOR-PROFIT telecoms (who make billions a year) with high fees for 5G poles then turns around and depends on volunteers to clean up after tornados, doesn’t plow our streets and now wants to charge for police assistance (even though they have plenty of money in the budget for it). This administration’s priorities are messed up, and you will see that when the $21.5 million dollar TIF for a private developer gets passed with NO evidence or studies proving TIFs provide economic impact to our city. The arts and other non-profit events in Sioux Falls have already had numerous studies showing their impact, but who has time to read that stuff? For TIFs and telecom handouts we’ll just take your word.


#1 Paul Eleven Haken on 12.06.19 at 6:33 pm

Honestly not surprised.

#2 SL on 12.06.19 at 7:21 pm

Jazzfest is gone, just like Ribfest. What’s next for this city to mess with?

#3 "Very Stable Genius" on 12.06.19 at 7:43 pm

Not surprised either. I miss the days, when it was just one day, sunny, only jazz music, and with no white tents.

The growing corporatist nature of it over the years was the canary in the coal mine for it as far as I am concerned.

( – and Woodstock adds: “First, it was the lost of the holiday lights in Yankton Trail Park, and now this”…”Thus, it looks like all we have for sure now is a broader canoe path on a flooded once bike trail”…..#ThanksALotTrump….)

#4 LJL on 12.06.19 at 8:44 pm

I would guess that liability insurance for these events has to be enormous.

#5 D@ily Spin on 12.06.19 at 9:20 pm

Time to move Jazz Fest to the Fairgrounds? The county can manage security far better than the city. There’s lots of parking. The compound is fenced. There’s grandstands. The midway can be the food court and booths. Once again the city has stepped on their whatchamacallit.

#6 Curt W Pochardt on 12.06.19 at 9:55 pm

Really? I think that removes the last valid reason to visit the little city by the little falls.

#7 Curt on 12.06.19 at 9:57 pm

What??? If JazzFest is dead, is there any other reason to visit the little city by the little waterfall?

#8 Paul Eleven Haken on 12.06.19 at 10:13 pm

The downfall of Jazzfest was that it was too focused on only jazz. Hardly was there a once household name that would be a draw for people. Sioux City’s Saturday in the Park gets big names. The Jazz Fest leaders were too in the box.

And a question for Very Stable Genius: What do you mean by the “growing corporatist nature of it over the years was the canary in the coal mine…”?

#9 Thomas on 12.06.19 at 10:32 pm

You are correct. Many things contributed to the jazzfest announcement this year. Rob Joyce leaving, bad weather, headliner has to cancel, any event exists on a razor thin margin. Volunteers to work the event. Volunteers to organize and plan the event. Most importantly having sponsors and money. But also think of this, when JazzFest began, there were next to zero options for music venues or celebrations in Sioux Falls. The loss of the Pomp Room as the center hub stagnated live music for longer than it should have. Let’s face it, the masses would still rather hear a cover band version of “Don’t Stop Believing” instead of great original music from an unknown artist or stretching their comfort zone and listening to a genre that isn’t classic rock or 80s top 40. Sure, I miss the fun I used to have at Jonofest and I really miss the vibe of our once buzzing local music scene when I could catch a Janitor Bob, Violet, or Nick Simon’s band (that I cant recall the name of). There were a few other smaller organized shows/festivals here and there. Lest we forget, in the not too distant past, music venues such as the Nordic Hall drew nothing but complaints and who can forget when Nine Inch Nails came to town and Mayor Hansen had to personally approve of their style of music before we booked any other acts “like them” at the arena. And please don’t forget about the rock music/dancing/swaying/moving balcony at the Washington Pavilion debacle (Collective Soul). We now have the Leavit at the Falls that brings a Jazzfest like atmosphere to town every weekend in the summer and also brings us several different genres to enjoy. The District venue continues to bring national and dare I say world class acts to town. Downtown block parties, First Fridays, and just last month I was able to catch Corb Lund at Icon ?Lounge. We are a long way from the days when the promoter/manager at the fairgrounds refused to book Hootie and the Blowfish to the Sioux Empire Fair (just as their debut album topped the charts) because of the extra $8000.00they were asking. Sure it’s tough losing a tradition like jazzfest. But I think we are making musical progress in Sioux Falls. So, don’t stop believing.

#10 The Guy From Guernsey on 12.06.19 at 10:58 pm

Not surprised, really. Could see/feel the slide over the past three years. As I walked past parking areas, mostly empty, while on my way into the park last summer, I recall thinking, “this can’t be good. Lyft isn’t THAT popular yet.”
It was a good run.

#11 rufusx on 12.07.19 at 9:17 am

Maybe if Trump and Noem paid their bill………….

#12 D@ily Spin on 12.07.19 at 10:39 am

LifeLight moved to acreage outside of town. Perhaps this is an opportunity for somewhere between Sioux Falls and Sioux City. A smaller city will appreciate the commerce and notoriety. Sioux Falls has a half billion budget. They don’t need the extra million or so.

#13 Desperately Seeking Seney Island on 12.08.19 at 12:38 pm


JazzFest was a part of a floodplain. It was, itself, a part of the “little waterfall;” but it’s all down river now.

#14 ON DEMAND. ON IT. ONWARD. ON 8 OFF. on 12.08.19 at 12:54 pm

Say, is the Levitt still getting its city FTE? If so, maybe JazzFest could use one too…. #ItsOnlyFair

( and Woodstock adds: “The loss of jazz music in this town is the first justification for a new culture officer, if you ask me”…. 🙂 )

#15 "Woodstock" on 12.08.19 at 8:00 pm

“Say, I have an idea. We should charge developers $70 per hour every time they want to talk to someone from Planning about development growth and/or a TIF, with a minimum first hour charge.”

#16 Pancy Nelosi on 12.08.19 at 10:42 pm

It’s sad but Joe Average in Sioux Falls is just not that interested in Jazzfest or really any of the arts. Where i work, no one even mentions it or the Levett, or the Icohn lounge or the whitewall sessions. It’s just your typical Midwest town – they like huntin, fishin and fixing on the house, putting a gas heater in their garage. It’s the Midwest man and it will always be that.

#17 D@ily Spin on 12.09.19 at 12:20 pm

It doesn’t surprise me the city destroyed Jazz Fest. It wasn’t their venue and they don’t like citizen entertainment unless it’s $100 tickets at their Denty, membership at the bathhouse, or penalty membership at the Pavilion. It’s amazing how they lose a hundred million on TIF’s and parking ramps but can’t recognize substantial sales tax revenue from Jazz Fest tourism.

#18 Slartibartfast on 12.09.19 at 9:34 pm

Remain calm people. Life (and events) are ever changing. Jazzfest is on hiatus because we now have an embarrassing amount of musical, festival, and cultural offerings, unlike the Sioux Falls of three decades ago when JF was founded. The event has been declining ever since the Denny was built. Everything will be fine though because the music scene continues to get better year over year. BTW, I doubt this is the last you’ll hear from JF.