Chicago’s South Shore Jazz Festival canceled

Organizers promise the long-running fest will return in 2014

July 15, 2013

(Flickr/ZOI87)
The South Shore Cultural Center, at 71st and the lakefront, was home to Geraldine de Haas’ long-running festival.

Updated 9 p.m.

The South Shore Jazz Festival, a long-standing summer tradition in Chicago’s cultural scene, has been canceled.

The festival was founded in 1981 by Geraldine de Haas, a former singer and one of Chicago’s most tireless jazz advocates.

De Haas modeled her lakeside festival on the famous Newport Jazz Festival. And she did attract some big stars, from Count Basie to Diane Reeves.

But for years, the festival has struggled to raise money. In fact it was almost canceled last year until DuSable Museum of African American History President and long-time festival supporter Carol Adams stepped in at the last minute.

De Haas, who retired recently, handed the operation of the festival over to Jazz Unites, a civic group she also founded. She said this year the new organizers were waiting to get their application approved from the Chicago Park District.

“They’ve only had since June to pull it together because that’s when the park district said you have the right to do it,” de Haas said. “But June is not long enough. They have to raise at least $100,000.”

A spokesperson for the park district confirmed that Jazz Unites was given official notice of approval on June 24, "though as a returning event the group was informed months ago that partnership approval was very likely."

The Park District said it plans to work closely with Jazz Unites to bring back the festival in 2014.

Meanwhile, Delmarie Cobb, who is acting as a consultant to the festival (Cobb was also involved with the festival in the mid-2000s) said they’re already reaching out to the park district now to secure the site for 2014.

The delay this year is actually in keeping with de Haas’ wishes. She said she wanted the new group to wait a year before re-launching the festival so they could “do it right.” She’s confident the show will eventually go on.

“It’s one of the prides of the city,” said de Haas. “But it’s definitely the pride of the South Side of Chicago.”

And as a parting gift to de Haas and her husband (a noted jazz performer himself), who are moving to New Jersey, the festival organizers have renamed the festival in their honor.

Alison Cuddy is WBEZ’s Arts and Culture reporter and co-host of Changing Channels, a podcast about the future of television. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram