New date for jazz fest fit for a queen 

By William Cooper, Jr.
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, September 7, 2006

RIVIERA  BEACH -- Patti LaBelle, move over.

   If city officials get their way, the Queen of Soul will headline the
7th Annual Jazz and Blues Festival.

   And to ensure that Aretha Franklin gets a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, city
officials have pushed the festival back to April to avoid the frigid March
temperatures that forced a cold and teary-eyed LaBelle from the Singer
Island stage earlier this year.  The LaBelle incident gave the Riviera Beach
event a black eye nationally and was one of several sour notes marring the
two-day, beachfront concert.

    Even now, city officials have yet to reconcile a $630,050 deficit from
the 6th Annual Jazz and Blues Festival.  It was first time the council opted
to use a private company, Class C-1 Productions, to produce the event.

   In May, the council severed its two-year contract with the Sunrise-based
company.  After reviewing the festival's finances, city staff blamed Class C-1
for the deficit caused by cost overruns in travel, security, a lack of corporate
sponsors and low ticket sales.

   The council also voted to sue Class C-1 to recoup some of its losses.  So far,
 the city has yet to take legal action.

   Before the festival, Mayor Michael Brown had cautioned against enlarging
it and bringing in big-name entertainers.  After the deficit came to light, the
council called for a workshop to closely examine the festival.

   That never happened.  Instead, they discussed continuing the festival at
a recent council meeting and emerged with plans that appear to be bigger
than ever.  City staff is forging ahead to plan next year's event on
April 13-14.  The council approved a $625,000 budget for the festival, with
$75,000 being appropriated immediately to secure artists.

   Only councilwoman Vanessa Lee opposed continuing the festival. 
Instead of having a "party", the city should use the money to pay for
a summer youth jobs program or hire more workers to cleanup the city,
 she said.

   "Not everybody listens to jazz," Lee said.  "We're using everybody's
money to put on an event for a few people."

   Council Chairwoman Ann Iles and council women Liz Wade and Norma
Duncombe supported hosting the event.  Jim Jackson was on vacation.

   Iles and Brown said the festival has become synonymous with Riviera
Beach.  It would be a mistake to end the tradition now, they said.

  "It's not just about sand and the beach," said Iles, who apologized to
taxpayers for pushing to put the previous festival in the hands of a
private producer.  "It's about pride and culture."

   Iles promised to implement safeguards to keep the upcoming festival
under some financial control.  She urged creation of a citizens'
advisory board to monitor the planning process and the number of
corporate sponsors.

   Iles believes the council should revisit the fund-raising portion of
the festival by December.  If, by the end the year, corporate contributions
are low, she suggested the board may want to reconsider holding the event.

   In addition to Franklin, city officials are looking at Lionel Richie,
Santana, Average White Band, Tower of Power, Chris Botti and Jill Scott
as possible performers.

   Although the bulk of the festival is being planned by staff, the council
also agreed to seek bids for fund-raising and marketing.  Bids on
marketing end Sept. 11, while bids on fund-raising close Sept. 15.

   City staff is also working on a deal with Dr. Bobby Jones, whose
gospel show airs on the cable network Black Entertainment Television. 
If Riviera Beach can get a contract with Jones, the festival will expand
to a third day featuring gospel artists.

   If Jones produces his show from Riviera Beach, it will cost about
$300,000 and must include at least three nationally known gospel acts,
according to city staff.  However, when Jones aired his show from
Indianapolis, those fees were underwritten by corporate sponsors.