Olympic medalist will kick off Oak Harbor Music and Jazz Festival.

Atalo Ibarra, owner of Valle Azule restaurant, and Larry Mason of the band the Halyards goof around with a guitar. They are both involved in the Oak Harbor Music and Jazz Festival. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Atalo Ibarra, owner of Valle Azule restaurant, and Larry Mason of the band the Halyards goof around with a guitar. They are both involved in the Oak Harbor Music and Jazz Festival.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

The volume will be turned all the way up in downtown Oak Harbor this weekend for the biggest party of the year.

Judo champ and bronze medalist Marti Malloy will take the Pioneer Way stage at 5:30 Friday night to kick off the first-ever Oak Harbor Music and Jazz Festival. Malloy, an Oak Harbor High School graduate, is returning to the city for the first time following her victory in the London Olympics.

The three-day weekend will be filled with a delicious blend of jazz, soft rock, rhythm and blues, gospel and folk music. An impressive line-up of bands from across the country will be playing into the night. The Oak Harbor Tavern is hosting a wine and beer garden with local brews. Visitors can browse arts and craft booths, stop by local shops or eat.

Best of all, the fun is all in the name of charity and downtown revitalization. The profits will be split between the Blue Fox Drive-In, which is struggling to go digital, and a music scholarship fund in honor of former Oak Harbor High School band director Ed Bridges.

“Ed Bridges inspired a lot of musicians who are still playing today,” said Larry Mason, a member of the group Halyards who’s also in charge of “music and logistics” for the festival. “He was a cool teacher.”

The Oak Harbor Music and Jazz Festival is the brainchild of Michael-John Paparella, a downtown merchant. He moved to Oak Harbor from Florida, where he saw music festivals revitalize communities after hurricanes and economic downturns.

The idea quickly blossomed as many others dived in to help.

Margaret Livermore, Lynn Goebel and Michelle Curry have helped organize the event and collect sponsorships. Rhonda Severns, the city liaison, said the organizers have received $17,000 in donations from 39 groups, businesses and individuals. The top donors include Island Thrift, Windermere and Whidbey Island Bank. Other businesses, like Diamond Rentals, are donating equipment.

“The community has been fantastic,” Severns said. “Not one person has told me ‘no.’”

Some of the bands have also agreed to cut their pay in the spirit of charity. The long list of artists playing at the festival include Groove For Thought, Pearl Django, Carly Calebero, Nada Cantata and the Chris Eger Band.

A complete schedule is on the festival’s website at www.oakharbormusicfesti

A total of 60 booths on Pioneer Way will offer arts, crafts, food and more.

Severns said Valle Azule, a downtown Mexican restaurant, was granted permission to run an outdoor cafe during the festival. It will be the first time in city history, she said, that a restaurant will be able to run an open-air cafe on city sidewalks.

The Oak Harbor Tavern is raffling off a 55-inch, big-screen TV and other items to raise money for the music scholarship, which will go to local students.

Severns stressed that the festival is a nonprofit venture dedicated to raising funds for the community. The plan is to select a small business, local family or community project to support each year.

“We are excited to bring to Oak Harbor a group of bands that will bring music to your ears and help the city of Oak Harbor and the newly revitalized historic downtown become a vacation destination,” the committee members wrote in a press release.


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