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Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival kicks off

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a first on many levels: the first Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the first time the Paseo has been shut down for an event.

"You don't want to miss this," said Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner. "This is historical."

From the opening notes to the rambling rifts, Kansas City at 18th and Vine has a cadence. "Jazz is our heritage," added Kositany-Buckner, the Executive Director of the American Jazz Museum.

"Kansas City," she said Saturday morning, "this is something that you should be proud of. People are traveling from all over the world to come to 18th and Vine to really just be in that experience where jazz was created."

That cadence is especially pronounced this Memorial Weekend. The newly-minted Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival is hitting all the high notes over it's first three days.

"What was most surprising," she continued, "is when we opened the doors, the crowd kept on coming and coming and coming." Kositany-Buckner said the lines were long and deep Friday afternoon and evening. Ticket sales continued past 10 pm Friday night.

"I was looking for a lot of diversity," said Joe Blaq, the Festival Director "I wanted something for everyone."

Blaq is a Kansas City native who is now a a music producer. "I wanted the family to come out," he continued. "I wanted people who love jazz to come out and enjoy it, and who love blues, who love R&B, to just to come out and enjoy a good time."

"So everyone has a place at the festival, so they can say 'this is a place for me' and not just for jazz, just R&B, or just blues, just everything of music fused together."

Festival organizers want this festival to showcase more than just stanzas and saxophones. It's about bridges.

"One of the things I wanted to do with this festival was build social connections," said Kositany-Buckner. "Build community and create those cultural bridges."

Blaq echoed those sentiments. "(I want) everyone to have a place at the festival," he said, "so they can say 'This is a place for me.'"

This Memorial Day weekend, it's about memorializing all those jazz greats who put Kansas City on the map.

"It's about the history of jazz," said Kositany-Buckner, "it's about our heritage, and it's the first Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival."

FOX 4 is a proud sponsor of the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival.