Drawing more and more visitors each year, the Ocean City Jazz Festival brings the sounds of cool jazz to blend the waterfront breeze each summer in historic Ocean City, part of North Topsail Beach. Under the shade of a tent, artists at the top of their art will perform on the evenings of July 2-3.
Started in 2009, the festival was conceived by the community’s citizens’ council who were seeking a summertime family celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the Ocean City.
Ocean City, located 3 miles north of Surf City, was developed by the efforts of Edgar Yow, a white attorney, and Dr. Samuel Gray, a black physician, both of Wilmington. Yow owned the 1-mile stretch of beach on Topsail Island and approached Dr. Gray with the idea of creating an African American beach community where residents could own a beachfront home. Dr. Gray turned to Bertram, Wade, Louise and Robert Chestnut, siblings who purchased the first tracts of land in what was to become Ocean City.
The first homes were built in 1949, followed by a motel, chapel and camp dormitory. Ocean City became the first North Carolina coastal community in which African Americans could purchase land, 15 years before the Civil Rights Act. To celebrate the rich history of Ocean City, the council approached the community about holding a jazz festival, and the idea was welcomed with overwhelming positive response.
“We were looking for an event that would bring some focus to the Ocean City community as well as the Topsail Island community,”
Kenneth Chestnut, president of the Ocean City Beach Citizens Council said of the event’s beginning. “We looked at other festivals in the area and there were no jazz festivals. It has grown each year and keeps getting bigger and better. It really brings a lot of people to Ocean City and Topsail Island. It has a positive impact on the area and certainly on the Ocean City community.”
The Ocean City Jazz Festival continues to be a one of a kind event for Topsail Island event. The event celebrates jazz legends and up and coming jazz greats. The festival is held annually on July 4th weekend at 2649 Island Drive and offers an eclectic schedule of performers.
This year’s lineup includes bassist and composer John Brown, a native of Fayetteville; drummer Herlin Riley of New Orleans; Detroit’s Althea Rene; Tia Fuller, who recently toured with Beyonce; Marcus Anderson, a saxophonist from South Carolina; Philadelphia’s Gerald Veasley; and soul singer Ashleigh Smith, who recently shared the stage with the Manhattan Transfer and Jon Hendricks at the Kennedy Center.
One-day admission is $35 and two-day admission is $60 in advance. Tickets are slightly higher at the gate. The event includes food trucks and a merchandise market that features a variety of food, beverages and souvenirs. No picnic baskets or coolers are allowed. The jazz festival features signature wines provided by Duplin Winery and a silent auction. Visit the community center to bid on auction items prior to the event. All proceeds benefit the Wade H. Chestnut Memorial Chapel.
For more information, visit oceancityjazzfest.com.