Jazz in the Valley

There’s nothing unlucky about Number 13 for organizers of the annual Jazz in the Valley music festival in Ellensburg, Wash.

This year, as they have for the past 12 summers, 25 acts ranging from Too Slim and the Taildraggers to the Total Experience Gospel Choir to John Moawad’s All Star Band will take over 10 downtown venues July 30-Aug. 1 to jump, jive and wail for three days.

Ellensburg streets will be filled with fans, young and old, who’ve come to hear the best the Northwest has to offer in the way of jazz and blues. Add a couple of Saturday afternoon wine tastings at the Clymer Museum of Art and Gallery One, plus the local farmer’s market Saturday morning, and there’s no doubt, this joint will be jumping.

A successful celebration is nothing new for Jazz in the Valley, says Larry Sharpe, a local Realtor and president of the organization’s (volunteer) board of directors. Sharpe says in inaugural year 1997, the party started small, with five venues and 10 groups. Budget for the event came in at a modest $20,000 with the goal of “let’s put on a show for a few friends,” Sharpe recalls.

Now nearly a decade and a half later, Jazz in the Valley attracts several thousand from all over the U.S., as well as CDs and e-mails to Sharpe from musicians eager to participate.

It now costs $120,000 to put on the event and “we’ve never been in the red,” Sharpe says proudly. “Not many festivals in the state can say that.”

He is quick to credit volunteers for much of the solvency, 220 who help during the weekend and others who donate money throughout the year. And every one of them, including Sharpe, pays admission even if they’re providing freebie help.

Only 60 percent of the budget comes from the gate (ticket sales), and at $35 for a full pass for all three days, “it’s dirt cheap” to attend, he says.

For those who want to take in only part of the festival, day and evening wristband passes are available for $10 to $15 depending on which day.

The 2010 Jazz in the Valley is dedicated to the memory of John “Coach” Moawad, the legendary, retired jazz music professor from Central Washington University who died of cancer last November. For many years, Moawad’s All Star Big Band performed as the Sunday afternoon finale to Jazz in the Valley.

The tradition continues as CWU music professor Chris Bruya, a former student of Moawad who has co-directed the band with him, wields the baton in Moawad’s honor. Many other former students also return every year to play with the group.

Ticket information as well as a full schedule of performers and their times and locations for Jazz in the Valley is available on line at

A few things to see and do/places to visit during the 2010 Jazz in the Valley music festival:

The Valley Café, 105 W. 3d Ave.—Located in an old Art Deco building, the Valley Cafe has won many awards for food and wine. Next door is the Valley Café Deli and Wine Shop which features espresso, boxed lunches and sandwiches.

Dakota Café, 417 N. Pearl (one of the venues for Jazz in the Valley) offers steaks, seafood and pasta.

art galleries— the Clymer Museum of Art, 416 N. Pearl, (also a Jazz in the Valley venue) features a permanent exhibit of the works of John Ford Clymer.

Gallery One, another venue, is located at 408 N. Pearl.

Got caffeine? Ellensburg’s local coffee roasters, D&M Coffee has outlets at 301 N. Pine (downtown) and 204 S. Water St.

Listen to the blues and check out some blues. Stop by the Blue Gem Company, 709 S. Main, for Ellensburg blue jewelry.

The Children’s Activity Museum, 400 N. Main is a great place to take the kids for imaginary play and hands-on exhibits. Suitable for preschoolers through early elementary.

In Ellensburg, the wind is not gone, so why not plan a tour of wind farms (visible from I-82 near Vantage.) Call the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce, (509) 925-3137 or (888) 925-2204 to schedule your visit.

Take a jaunt through the Yakima River Canyon (SR 821) which runs from Ellensburg to Selah. A beautiful drive and a great place to see wildlife, particularly bighorn sheep and deer. Several picnic areas and viewpoints can be found along the road.

Dick and Jane’s Spot, 101 N. Pearl in Ellensburg. The home of artist Jane Orleman and her late husband Dick Elliott, also an artist, defies description with its yard filled with colorful creations made of found objects.

The Ellensburg Farmer’s Market, Saturday, 9 am-1pm, 4th Ave. between Ruby and Pearl streets. Fresh produce, local crafts.

Get a feel for the past. Take in some history at the Kittitas County Historical Museum, 3rd and Pine. Free admission.

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