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Jonesboro jazz concert moving to Lee Street park

A sluggish response from Clayton County officials, on whether this week’s “Jazz Under the Stars in Jonesboro” concert can be held on county property, has forced city leaders to make a last-minute change on the event’s location, organizers have confirmed.

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day said the concert is moving to Lee Street Park, at the corner of Lee Street and Smith Street, in Jonesboro, from the originally planned location at the Historic Clayton County Courthouse. Control of the park was just transferred from the county to the city, at the beginning of April.

Day explained the move was needed because she could not get a written commitment from county officials to let the city hold the concert on the lawn of the Historic Clayton County Courthouse.

The mayor had already received a verbal commitment from County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, but she added that County Manager Wade Starr had told her the county commission would need to vote to allow the festival to be held at the old courthouse.

“We never received confirmation that the commission said it was OK for us to hold the concert at the courthouse, so we just decided to move it to Lee Street Park, since we own it now,” Day said.

The concert is set to take place Saturday, from 6 p.m., to 10 p.m. In many ways, the concert will be a coming out party of sorts for a Jonesboro-controlled version of Lee Street Park. There has not been any other major event held at the park since the transfer of authority occurred.

“It won’t be as picturesque as the courthouse lawn would be, but this could actually be a blessing in disguise, because it will be an opportunity for us to kick off Lee Street Park, as a city-owned park,” said City council Member Pat Sebo, the concert’s organizer.

Day added the park has some attributes, such as the fact that it has bathrooms and some existing bleacher-style seating areas, that do not exist on the courthouse lawn. The mayor added that the concert stage will be set up on the east side of the park’s football field, and will be facing the field’s concrete stands. Concert attendees will be allowed to set up blankets, lawn chair and coolers on the field, she said.

Plans are also being discussed on how to quickly spruce up the rag-tag park in time for the concert, according to the mayor. “Personally, I think it’s going to be better there [the park] anyway,” she said.

This is the first year that Jonesboro has participated in the Atlanta Jazz Festival’s “31 Days of Jazz,” and Sebo said it is expected to draw one important guest: Atlanta Jazz Festival Manager Nnena Nchege.

Festival spokesperson Karen Hatchett said officials from the festival do try to have at least one of their representatives at each “31 Days of Jazz” concerts. She added not everyone, however, can get someone as high up in the organization as Nchege, who oversees the entire Atlanta Jazz Festival program.

“That’s great if you can get her,” Hatchett said. “If it’s on Nnena’s schedule, then it must be a concert that she felt was really important to attend.”

Hatchett added that Atlanta Jazz Festival officials have been very happy about having a southside presence this year. “They are excited about Jonesboro participating this year,” the festival spokesperson said. “They are very happy to be able to grow the festival’s reach, and to take it into new communities.”

In addition to a new location, the last week has seen several other developments related to the jazz concert. The Clayton News Daily, as a partner with the City of Jonesboro, launched a special section, titled “Jazz Under the Stars,” to keep people up-to-date on the latest news related to the concert. The special section is located under the “Editor’s Picks” heading on the newspaper’s web site, www.news-daily.com/.

Jonesboro’s concert has also grown in scope. Sebo said three new sponsors, including the Fincher, Denmark and Williams law firm, We Are Clayton magazine, and Attorney Steve Lister and his wife, Kim. They join a sponsors list that already included Paragon Security, Heritage Bank, and an individual that Sebo has declined to identify.

The list of scheduled performers has also grown since details about the line-up first emerged last week.

Sebo said Lovejoy Library Branch youth Services Librarian Xavier Scott’s jazz band has signed up to join the previously announced lineup that includes: Jonesboro saxophone player Jason Bitten, Atlanta musician Baatin Muhammad, and a newly formed Clayton State University Community Jazz Combo band.

Xavier Scott’s father, Peter Scott, is the assistant managing editor of the Henry Daily Herald, which is a sister paper of the Clayton News Daily.

Even the number of food providers has increased in the last week. Gina’s Bistro and Catering is joining Anne and Bill’s Restaurant, and the Cravings restaurant as the food providers for the concert. Sebo said people who want meals from those restaurants will have to call and pre-order their food before the day of the concert.

Anne and Bill’s Restaurant will deliver its food to the concert site, while people who order food from either Cravings, or Gina’s will have to go by those restaurants to pick up their food. Cravings is located inside the Clarion Hotel-Atlanta Airport South, located at 6288 Old Dixie Highway, in Jonesboro, and Gina’s is located at 253 North Main Street, in Jonesboro.

Call Anne and Bill’s at (404) 366-4477, Gina’s at (404) 438-1727, or Cravings at (770) 968-4300 to pre-order a dinner for the concert.