Twin Cities Jazz Festival Turns 20 Years Old in 2018

For 20 years the Twin Cities Jazz Festival has been the largest FREE music event in Minnesota. Founder and executive director, Steve Heckler is the only staff person to run this huge annual event. Except for some paid contractors, the work is done through over 200 volunteers each year. More than 30,000 people, including Sharlene & me, saw 72 musical acts on 22 stages over three days this week in St. Paul. And it’s free. And the musicians are paid. Nearby businesses thrive and the world continues to rotate.

For Sharlene and me it was a combination of the Bayfront Blues Festival, the State Fair and Disneyworld. Great experiences, good food, creative vendors and wonderful music. Come over to Lowertown next year and be wonderfully entertained.

It all started as a free community music event on Peavey Plaza in 1999. Then it soon expanded with the addition of the Mears Park venue. Now with St Paul Lowertown neighborhood as the focus point several nearby venues have been added over the years.

When the economy got hit in 2008 the Festival nearly ended, but the City of St Paul helped the Festival to find funding and restart at Mears Park. It has continued in Mears Park since 2008. With the rebirth of St Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood the Festival kept growing. In 2014 another stage was added at the newly refurbished Union Depot Station. The Green Line train that connects Minneapolis to St. Paul opened two weeks before the jazz festival with the last station at the Union Depot in the heart of Lowertown. Thanks to a Minnesota State Arts Board grant the jazz festival books music at five clubs/venues along the Green Line.

Entertainers like Connie Evingson, Clark Terry, Butch Thompson, Monty Alexander and Tiger Okoshi, just to name a few, have visited the Festival stages over the 20 years. In 2012 over 250 bands performed at the Festival.

I’m not sure how he does it, but we are glad Steve makes it happen!

Importantly, Event Sponsors are-
AARP, North Memorial Hospital, Oppidan, RBC, District 7, Feline Rescue, the Minnesota Wild, Toyota, Summit Brewing, Travelers Insurance, Episcopal Homes, Excel Energy, IHG, Citizens Supper Club, Twin Cities Magazine, Ebenezer Cares, MetroTransit, Jazz88, TPT Television, St Paul Saints Baseball, Thomson Reuters; Pohlad Companies, Schmitt Music, Dunn & Semington Printing, BWBR, UCare, Crooners, Comcast, Vieux Carre’, The Dakota, KellerWilliams/RandiDahl, All Energy Solar, Union Depot, Bremer Bank, Lofts at Farmers Market, Big River Pizza, Jazz Central Studios, JazzPolice, PioneerEndicott, Marna’s Catering, Public Kitchen & Bar, Green Lantern, Black Dog, MacPhail, Center for Music, Biergarten Germania, Cosmopolitan Apartments, National Endowment for the Arts, Alden Drew & Mimie Pollard, The River Rose Fund, Saint Paul Star Program, The Saint Paul Foundation

For more information: go to

If you would like to live near Mears Park… close to downtown St. Paul, the LRT, the Saints baseball stadium, great restaurants/bars/clubs/cafes, the St. Paul Farmers Market and more… check out St. Paul condos for sale… then contact us to take a look!

Written By

I love connecting with people and exploring cities, buildings, and communities... which led me to degrees in architecture and city planning. Now working with Sharlene, my wife of more than 50 years, I get to put it all together to help people navigate housing alternatives.

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