Drop one pebble into a puddle and watch the ripple effect take place, a movement in patterns and size that flourishes as time goes by. One could easily take this metaphor and apply it to the upcoming Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival, a summertime staple that has exponentially grown since the event’s inception in 1998 which first took place on the site of the old Lucky Lager Brewery.
Even more impressive than it’s longevity is the economic impact the festival has on local businesses, as the bigger the Festival grows in terms of participants, patrons, and attendees, the more exposure is given to neighboring businesses in Vancouver. To learn more about this upcoming event, we spoke with the founder as well as artistic director of the festival, Michael Kissinger, to uncover this event’s history and just what this festival offers the community.
“We knew they were going to be developing this big park downtown so we sort of wanted to plant our flag in that location even though there wasn’t much there at the time,” says Kissinger. “We wanted to say that ‘this is going to be for the future’. The first festival was actually on a gravel parking lot. It was a great event! People just didn’t care for the rocks.”
Lucky for Kissinger, he would have an answer the following year as it pertained to the gravel parking lot, as Portland would play host to the Women’s World Cup in 1999, encouraging Kissinger to make a phone call regarding the available sod which would be transported to the other side of the bridge. The sod covered nearly an entire city lot with the approval, and help, of the local fire chief. Finally, by the third year the festival would take place in Esther Short Park, and while it might’ve not been completed at the time, it would now serve as the permanent home to this exciting event.
This year the Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival will present a large collection of worldwide talent over twenty different concerts, including eighteen bands as well as eight different internationally acclaimed and Grammy-winning artists. Equally as impressive is the expected attendance, which is estimated to be anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 attendees over the event’s three days, including visitors from out of the state and even out of the country.
“About 68% of our advanced ticket sales have been from out of town,” says Kissinger. “It’s not really a local event anymore. We probably do about 400 hotel rooms just based on some of the numbers we’ve been getting.”
One important note by Kissinger was how this has now become more of a cultural event rather than just a musical event, and that’s likely due to the numerous vendors that play a role, including some of the fun exhibitors as well as the wine selection. “To me, wine is an artform,” says Kissinger. “We’ll feature over 60 selections this year from the Pacific Northwest and California. I really feel like it compliments the experience.”
Not lost on Kissinger or business owners in and around downtown Vancouver’s Esther Short Park is the positive ripple effect the Festival has on the community, and increased business opportunities for neighboring businesses. “We’ve run the statistics and I know there’s been a 10-12 million dollar economic impact on local businesses,” says Kissinger. “We know that the average person is spending about 85-150 dollars either at the event or after the events, often on hotel stays, parking, dining, gas, retail shopping. Everything, really.”
In fact, the festival has grown so much over the years that it has been able to land some major sponsors, including ilani as the presenting sponsor, BMW as the stage sponsor, Xfinity, Otak, iHeartRadio, as well as plenty of others.
“They’re all committed to their community but I would also suggest there’s a big economic benefit to them,” says Kissinger. “They get VIP tickets, radio, TV, advertising, onsite promotions, and more. It presents a lot of networking opportunities.”
The 2023 Wine & Jazz festival is set to present some exciting headliners between its August 25th-27th dates, including Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Sue Foley, Alison Brown Quartet, Bonerama, Spyro Gyra, Grace Kelly, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and much more. Tickets are still available to be purchased at the gate with prices ranging from $35-$50. You can find all the information you need regarding the festival at www.vancouverwinejazz.com