In 1980 local dermatologist and Dixieland band leader, Dr. Harry VanVelsor, along with two friends who also loved jazz, decided that it was time for Wilmington to have a jazz festival! They had attended jazz festivals in many other cities that they felt did not have all that Wilmington had to offer for a fun weekend. The Hilton Hotel was the birthplace –and now, as The Hotel Ballast, it still is the home of The North Carolina Jazz Festival.
Originally it was a typical “Traditional Jazz Party”, which brought well known Traditional Jazz musicians from across the country and around the globe to entertain attendees, who also came from across the country and around the globe to spend a weekend in Wilmington, NC.
In 2006 Dr. VanVelsor announced his retirement and turned the reins of the festival (or baton) over to Sandy Evans, who was president of the Cape Fear Jazz Society. Sandy realized that many similar festivals were closing due to smaller/aging audiences, so decided to broaden the musical scope and add a Thursday night event that would feature different styles of jazz. At this time the Jazz Education Program was expanded, and it continues to grow!
Now in its 40th year, the North Carolina Jazz Festival, Inc. is going strong and continues to bring to the Cape Fear area talented world renown musicians and jazz lovers who spend their evenings listening to their favorite style of music and their days exploring the historic area, the museums, shops, galleries, and restaurants of Wilmington. This time of year is not usually a busy time for tourism here, but because of our “jazz beat”, things are “hopping” in Wilmington during our NC Jazz Festival weekend! Come celebrate our 40th anniversary with us.