Is there room for Jazz Fest at the NYS Fair?

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The founder and executive director of Syracuse Jazz Fest is hopeful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to expand the State Fair to 18 days will mean a new home, and new life, for Jazz Fest.

After a 35-year run, Jazz Fest went dark two years ago when corporate support dried up.

“Now that the Fair is going to be 18 days and they have to fill 18 days worth of programming, I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could join forces and move Jazz Fest to the State Fair,” said Frank Malfitano, Jazz Fest executive producer.

Cuomo said he is putting $5 million extra into the Fair’s budget, which caught Malfitano’s attention.

“When I saw that this was gonna be used for Fair expansion and it was announced that it was gonna be used for programming, I thought let me see if there’s a way for us to partner,” said Malfitano. “I love the Fair, I always have, ever since I was a kid. And I think there’s no question this is the right site.”

Malfitano’s proposal, which he outlined in person to the Fair director, is to start small this year, with at least two days of the Fair hosting Jazz Fest.

“I don’t expect them to accept the full Jazz Fest model and format and template and plunk it down in the middle of the Fair that’s been going on for more than 100 years,” said Malfitano. “We would work together to design it… we left the proposal open-ended.”

And that open ended proposal includes booking the jazz acts themselves.

“If they have a contract that specifically says we have to work with Live Nation, or Triangle Talent, I would work with them,” said Malfitano. “We would sit down and I would make my recommendations and I’d say here’s who you should go with.”

Malfitano’s written proposal asks for a two-day talent budget for Jazz Fest at the State Fair, which would be somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000 out of the $5 million for the longer Fair.

He told NewsChannel 9’s Dan Cummings that there is a sense of urgency about this because, after two dark years for the Jazz Fest, the event needs to find both a new home and a new source of ongoing financial support.

“… I’m ready to step away from the day to day, but I really have a mission and that mission is to make sure Jazz Fest continues in the community,” Malfitano said.

On Tuesday, State Fair spokesman Dave Bullard released the following statement to NewsChannel 9:

“We have the greatest respect for Frank Malfitano and the festival. We let him know that the proposed appropriation, if approved, is already fully dedicated to the increased salary and operational costs of the 18-day Fair, but that we will give his proposal serious consideration.”


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