beaches jazz festival

5 things to do at the Beaches Jazz Festival in Toronto

The Beaches Jazz Festival in Toronto kicks off its 2014 edition Friday at Woodbine Park with local favourite KC Roberts and r&b artist Jay Douglas. The festival attracted local attention recently amid funding controversies over the festival`s inability to secure the Celebrate Ontario grant they regularly receive. Fortunately for the fest the provincial government restored the grant after being criticized for awarding Drake's for-profit OVOFest a $300,000 grant.

This year's featured artists include Dumstaphunk, Teeny Tucker, and local Reggae legends Messenjah, who are reuniting for the first time in 15 years. Over the years the festival's shifted its focus from jazz to a variety of different genres. Planners have also done an admirable job of diversifying the festival as a whole - not only is there free live music every night, but a range of activities with a focus on community building - plus food trucks galore.

Here are my picks for the top five things to see and do at the Beaches Jazz Festival.

The StreetFest is a main draw for festival goers. Queen Street East is cordoned off from Woodbine to Beech where thousands of people occupy the two and a half kilometre stretch. With a performance on every corner and a constant stream of food vendors, it's easily the festival's most popular attraction. The StreetFest runs from July 24th to July 26th.

Taste of Jazz in Woodbine Park
This year's edition of the Beaches Jazz Festival is housing a food truck bonanza that boasts over 20 different trucks with names such as Cin City Donuts, Gorilla Cheese, and Fidel Gastro's. The food truck alley will be in Woodbine Park on July 22nd and 23rd between 5pm -10 PM.

Jazz in Motion
The festival's photography exhibition is back for its 4th year in Woodbine Park between July 18th and 20th. The goal of the exhibition is to promote "images that best define the essence of jazz music, jazz musicians and the audience which supports them." The exhibition is juried, with the top three photographs receiving prizes. If you're lucky enough to be in cottage lang and happen to miss the festival, the exhibition will be on display from July 23rd until August 9th at Above Ground Art Supplies in the Beaches.

Jazz Workshops
On top of the various musical acts throughout the week, the festival also holds an array of workshops with local artists to help promote their art while also teaching others of their craft. Learn how to play New Orleans style Brass or take a dancing lessons in Woodbine Park. Workshops are free but do require an RSVP. Workshop RSVPs can be sent to

Beaches International Jazz Festival Tune-Up Run
We`ve covered the foodies and the artists - now the fitness enthusiast needs a reason to show up. The Tune-Up Run, organized by the Canadian Running Series and the local Running Room has three different distances with fundraising efforts going towards Toronto East General Hospital. The 20K starts at 8am on July 27th at the iconic Leuty Lifeguard Station with the 10K and 5K following at 9:00am. and 9:30am respectively.

The Beaches Jazz Fest runs from July 18-27.

Writing by Jacob Thompson. Photo via Facebook.

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