By Sterling Nelson
Editor’s note: Evergreen fixture Sterling Nelson, the founder of the Evergreen Jazz Festival, will be moving to Denver at the end of the month. Sterling wrote a two-part goodbye to our readers that will appear this week and next. This editor will miss his support and counsel.
“ALL ABOUT JAZZ: Evergreen Jazz Festival fills weekend with sassy and fascinating facts” was the headline in the Aug. 1 edition of the Canyon Courier. In the article, reporter Sandy Barnes chronicled some of the joys and educational opportunities open to the listeners and dancers in the three days of the Evergreen Jazz Festival.
This edition of the festival was the 11th since the inception in 2001. At that time, Evergreen had not seen or heard anything of this order. The Elks Lodge is due a great deal of thanks for the improvements it has made in the facility, making it a first-class site for such activities. Education, especially of youths, has been a priority from the start of the festival. All parties involved are to be commended for the high degree of quality and enthusiastic volunteerism.
A festival such as this does not come into being just out of the blue, and this one has a history. I personally became involved in the music termed traditional or classic jazz with the beginning of the life of the Queen City Jazz Band in 1958. There have been other festivals in Colorado; the closest to our format and size was the Central City Jazz Festival in the late ‘70s and the ‘80s, b.g. (before gambling).
The inspiration for the EJF came to me on board a cruise off the coast to Mexico and, for those who bought it, a small jazz festival at sea. Several of the audience were very good dancers, and a jolly time was being had by all. On one particular occasion, the Golden Gate Rhythm Machine, a San Francisco Bay band, was playing great, and the dancers were caught up in the spirit. The thought came to me, “Evergreen needs to have this experience.”
There was no evidence to support that declaration, and I am sure that there was no one in Evergreen even thinking about that. No matter; the commitment had been made. The 11 festivals are a testament to the ability of the community to respond.
I resigned as music director in 2011 and have been ably replaced by Ed Danielson of Denver. Due to medical reasons, I have lost my driving privileges and am moving to Denver to be closer to public transportation and all that Denver offers. I wish the Jazz Festival and the community in general well. I will continue to support and attend future Jazz Festivals and the rejuvenated Evergreen Ragtime Bash.
In reflecting on the 2012 Festival, Ted Mann (former president and dedicated volunteer) writes the following: “Artistically, I look forward to seeing the results of our patron survey. In the tradition that you started, we present a wide variety of early jazz music, and our patrons continue to respond to this exciting diversity. Many of them move from venue to venue throughout the weekend to experience this excitement. We present the opportunity to listen for extended hours of great music performed by some of this nation’s finest jazz men and women. There is no other festival in Denver or Colorado doing this, and the saturation of great music presents an amazing weekend indeed. … It just takes a committed board of directors, four extremely generous venues, an amazing cadre of volunteers and our super financial supporters to make it happen. That it happens in unincorporated Evergreen says more than I can tell you about this.”
Lin Browning, president of the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, writes: “This event is a jewel among our many affairs, and it is responsible for bringing many tourism dollars that our local businesses depend upon. Thank you, Sterling, for the passion and dedication you have brought to our community.”