In 1979, Music in the Air launched Jazz in July, a series presenting jazz through music, film and visual arts at various City of Columbus parks and facilities. Several activities were hosted at the Cultural Arts Center including a Jazz Film Festival and an art exhibit entitled, “Jazz Totems… An Affirmation of Life.” Weekly lunchtime performances were held in the Cultural Arts Center courtyard and featured the newly formed Jazz Arts Group. This was the foundation for what is now the Jazz & Rib Fest – Columbus’ largest free outdoor music festival and one of the nation’s largest rib cook-offs.
1980 – Music in the Air presented the first Riverfront Jazz Festival in July at the Riverfront Amphitheater.
1986 – National/international touring artists were presented for the first time at the festival.
1987 – The festival expanded to five days, presenting local jazz artists on Wednesday and Thursday evenings to kick-off the weekend festivities.
1990 – The Riverfront Jazz Festival and UpDowntowners’ RibFest merged to become the Jazz & Rib Fest. For several years prior, the UpDowntowners’ RibFest was produced separately and held during the Riverfront Jazz Festival.
1993– Festival site was expanded to both sides of the downtown riverfront, providing additional space for more rib burners and a second stage in Bicentennial Park.
1996 – 2005: During this period, the Chamber of Commerce was responsible for producing Jazz & Rib Fest.
2006 – Production responsibilities and operational control for Jazz & Rib Fest returned to the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.
2009 – As Jazz & Rib Fest celebrated its 30th anniversary, the event moved to its new home in the Arena District.
From Jazz in July to the Riverfront Jazz Festival to the Jazz & Rib Fest, for more than 30 years we’ve been dedicated to providing opportunities to experience the finest jazz musicians and savor the best BBQ from across the country. The Jazz & Rib Fest has become one of the most anticipated summertime traditions in Columbus – thanks to hot ribs, cool jazz and great fans!