Annual downtown jazz, food truck festival settling into good groove

Topekans Phil and Marci Perez regularly hang out in downtown Lawrence with their bulldogs, Mancini and Kush.

 

But events like Saturday’s Capital City Jazz &Food Truck Festival in downtown Topeka give the couple more reason to hang out here, Phil Perez said.

“This is what Topeka needs,” he said.

The Perezes were among thousands who attended Saturday’s third annual version of the festival, which took place in and around S.W. 9th and S. Kansas Avenue.

An estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people attended, the most the festival has seen, said Vince Frye, executive director of Downtown Topeka, Inc., which teamed up with Visit Topeka Inc. and the Topeka Jazz Workshop to put on the event.

“This place is rocking,” Frye said.

Attendance was estimated at 5,000 for the festival’s inaugural version in October 2015 and at more than 5,000 for last October’s event.

Fair skies and temperatures in the mid-70s greeted those who arrived as Saturday’s festivities began at 3:30 p.m., then mercury readings fell into the 60s as the evening progressed.

Admission was free. Visitors could choose from more than 20 food trucks offering a wide variety of options.

Those included buying gyros, buffalo burgers, jerk chicken, enchiladas, barbecue beef sandwiches, Frito walking tacos, foot-long corn dogs, miniature donuts or shaved ice.

Canned beer was also available for purchase, as the Topeka City Council voted in July to allow the sale, consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages within the designated barricaded area throughout Saturday’s event.

Meanwhile, four bands took turns performing on a stage near the crosswalk on S.W. 9th Street, just west of S. Kansas Avenue. Spectators watched from lawn chairs placed in and around the intersection.

“Don’t be afraid to get funky with us!” Chris Hazleton exclaimed as his band — Chris Hazleton’s Boogaloo 7 — performed Kool and the Gang’s “Let the Music Take Your Mind.”

Hazleton told the audience “the foundation of every funky band is a funky drummer,” then gave his band’s drummer — Topeka native Todd Strait — a chance to show off his skills.

Nearby, Phil and Marci Perez greeted people who approached their bulldog, Mancini — a 7-year-old male dressed appropriately for a jazz festival in black sunglasses and a fedora.

Mancini responded in a calm, cool manner that suggested he was used to the attention — and Phil Perez said he was, as his owners regularly dress him up.

“People tell us all the time, ‘You ought to charge for pictures with him,’ ” Phil Perez said. “But I can’t do that. Just for him to put a smile on somebody’s face is worth it.”

Between musical performances, organizers honored outgoing Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast — who leaves office in January — for the help he’s provided to downtown redevelopment efforts and all he’s done for the city in general.

Frye said he’d figured if Wolgast were going to be honored, “Let’s do it right in the middle of downtown Topeka.”

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Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

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