This family took a day off and ventured to the Square for Jazz Fest in 2011. (File photo)
Thousands of people flock to Murfreesboro’s historic downtown each year to hear live music, people-watch and mingle with neighbors and friends.
It may sound like a typical weekend on the Square, but Jazz Fest is like none other. The two-day music- and fun-filled event draws folks from across Middle Tennessee – some familiar with downtown and others who have never been – and local shop owners are grateful for the exposure.
The 16th annual Jazz Fest is slated for Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, and businesses that have opened within the past year are excited and nervous about their first time with the event.
“I hope it will be a kick off for our business and help get the word out to make people aware that we’re down here,” said Corey Williams, owner of Pa Bunk’s Natural Market & Café.
He opened in late-2011 between Shacklett’s and Bella’s Boutique to offer local residents healthier and locally produced goods -- a mini Whole Foods of sorts. Williams said he aims to provide those options during Jazz Fest, too.
“We’re going to (increase) our fresh fruit and sandwiches to be an alternative to what I call ‘carnival food’ that you can get at these types of events,” he said. “Surely there are people who want a healthier option rather than eating a hot dog or popcorn or something like that.”
This is Glenn Merchant’s second go-round with Jazz Fest, and he is anticipating another year of increased foot traffic. Moxie! Art Supply and Studio School is located off the Square a block next to Murfreesboro Outdoor and Bicycle and doesn’t typically get the passersby that businesses on the Square see regularly.
“Having people come downtown benefited us,” Merchant said of Jazz Fest 2011. “It turned out to be a great advertising tool, and we got a lot of new customers because of it.”
The shop stays busy with art students from MTSU, especially this time of year with finals, but Merchant said he noticed a lot of families taking note of Moxie! during Jazz Fest.
“Which is really great because, of course, young folks turn into artists,” he said.
Now in its 12th year on the Square, Wall Street Restaurant and Bar welcomes Jazz Fest attendees into the wee hours of the morning.
Melissa Young, who owns the business with her family, pointed out that Jazz Fest overlaps with MTSU graduation, Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby this year and is sure to bring a big crowd.
“It generally helps us out; you’ve got more people on the square, which brings people into our establishment,” she said of Jazz Fest.
“It definitely brings in some new faces because a lot of people don’t come to the Square unless there’s an event. And when they’re out, they are going to head into places they wouldn’t normally go.”
She hopes than many of those “new faces” will become regulars.
“We definitely strive on repeat customers, day and night, and even (outside of) Jazz Fest,” Young continued.
JazzFest is one the premier events of Main Street Murfreesboro, a nonprofit organization, which relies on public and private donations for operations and projects.
“The mission statement of Main Street is to enhance and promote downtown as the heart of our community. So what better way than to bring a diverse event with families together downtown to see what’s here and fall in love with it,” Main Street Murfreesboro Executive Director Kathleen Herzog said.
“We love to use this opportunity to promote our downtown business community which is thriving.”