Downtown District prepares to host first Belleville Jazz Festival

ByShannon J. Cortes

Aug 31, 2022

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It’s time to get moving, Belleville, with the inaugural kick-off of the Belleville Jazz Festival.

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The sounds of New Orleans, New York and Havana come to town this Labor Day weekend when the downtown district hosts its first jazz festival September 2-4.

The driving force behind the event is none other than Howard Rees, a Toronto-born, New York-trained jazz pianist who helped launch the Distillery District’s Jazz Festival in Toronto.

Speaking to The Intelligencer, Luisa Sorrentino, executive director of the BIA for the Downtown Belleville District, explained that the city is eager to work alongside Rees.

“We jumped at the chance when Rees contacted me to help and support this upcoming event in Belleville,” Sorrentino said. “He is not only very good at his job, but he also has a lot of experience in organizing events.”

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The festival plans to be filled with musical performances throughout the weekend. Apart from an opening night performance of Jane Bunnett and Friends, each performance will be free and open to all. In addition to the scheduled shows, downtown Front Street will be closed as nearly 40 vendors have set up along the street. Shoppers can enjoy stalls as jazz bands perform on the street between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“We are looking for about 40 vendors, crafts, all kinds of different items. So you can start your Christmas shopping,” Sorrentino said.

One performance that Sorrentino mentioned she was excited for is the salsa dancing lesson that takes place at the Parrott Stage in Belleville Market Square. Held on Saturdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m., the event is open to all skill levels.

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“I’m really, really excited about that, the vibe that happens when you bring in live music and dancing,” she said, “It’s going to be extremely exciting for me and a lot of other people. who like this kind of atmosphere.”

The event is scheduled for Labor Day weekend, which would not normally see the downtown district host any events. Sorrentino hopes the new addition will fit in nicely with other events taking place across the city.

“We’re really excited to see something new coming to downtown at a specific time, where we haven’t had events before,” she said. “It’s just a great addition.”

After two years there, locals can’t wait to get out – just look at the many summer events that have seen record attendance. Between the Jazz Festival and the Porchfest, residents will close an eventful summer in style.

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“We’ve seen so much joy at the last two events we’ve held downtown…Families reunited, neighbors met neighbors they hadn’t seen in years. It’s really nice to see people on the streets in a safe and happy environment,” Sorrentino said. “For us, especially downtown, September will be music month because we will have the Jazz Festival and then at the end of the 24th we will also have Porchfest. So start breaking those moves because we’re going to be dancing this weekend.

To learn more about the inaugural Belleville Jazz Festival, including a full list of shows, visit the Downtown Belleville BIA website at

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