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Qadirah promises Blues and Jazz Festival is coming back — next spring

SALISBURY — Eleanor Qadirah just couldn’t live without it.

After a one-year absence, Qadirah intends to bring back the Rowan Blues and Jazz Festival, only it will be next spring during Mother’s Day weekend.

For weeks and months, Qadirah has been fielding questions about the Blues and Jazz Festival, which normally would have been held this Saturday in downtown Salisbury. But for the first time since 1999, it won’t be.

Qadirah, always the ramrod for the festival, announced last year the 2013 edition would be the last. Word didn’t exactly get out, she said.

Local people ask her all the time when the festival will be this year. Performers keep contacting her. And “out-of-towners seemed to have faith there will be one again,” Qadirah said.

“Everybody has been calling,” she said.

Qadirah doesn’t want to characterize herself as being depressed there is no festival this year, but she definitely missed it.

“Friends and associates said, ‘I knew you weren’t finished with the festival,’” she said.

Qadirah has some new ideas. For now, the next Blues and Jazz Festival will be held May 9, 2015, but she hasn’t ruled out a two-day event.

“It will be downtown some place,” she said. “… I’m pushing for downtown.”

The most recent festivals were held in the big parking lot bounded by South Church and West Fisher streets, across from Rowan Public Library.

Qadirah said the North Lee Street Arts District — Railwalk — is an area she would like to consider. The South Lee Street/East Fisher Street area also could be an option, other than the traditional spot.

Bringing in acts are no problem — “they’re standing in line,” Qadirah said — and she is confident the Blues and Jazz Society could raise the money and have the volunteers needed to offer the festival, a daylong event which always had a backyard feel to it.

“We’re open, as usual, for partners,” Qadirah said. “… You do have to work hard at it, but neighbors and businesses enjoy supporting the arts. I think if we ask we will receive.”

Qadirah thought the festival and her energy for leading it had run their course, and last year’s theme was “Thanks for the Memories,” as she lined up some of the most requested performers from the previous 14 years.

The festival had become one of the few true blues and jazz festivals in the state, was an affiliate of the Blues Foundation and listed in the Smithsonian’s Jazz Society directory.

The event started as a fish-fry jam in 1999, when Qadirah belonged to the United Arts Council and kept pushing for a blues and jazz festival. She said she wanted to balance out the music scene in Rowan County.

At the first jam, performers played on a stage converted from a single-wide mobile home. Tablecloths were wrapped around the edges of the stage to hide the wheels, and a festival banner was created from a shower curtain with black adhesive-tape letters.

For the first six years, it was held in the parking lot next to the former GX Fitness Center.

The Rowan Blues and Jazz Society, which still exists, formed after the first festival. Qadirah became the face for that group, whose mission is preserving, promoting and presenting blues and jazz “with an emphasis on performances by musicians from the Piedmont region of North Carolina.”

The festival eventually would draw some well-known acts from the Southeast and beyond.

Qadirah also added a story-telling festival, held a couple of hours before the music started.

For now, Qadirah said she hopes next spring’s festival has a multi-cultural theme. She also thinks having the festival in May will provide for warmer nights.

If you’re interested in supporting or helping with the next Rowan Blues and Jazz Festival, contact Qadirah at 704-636-2811, or rbjs1720@carolina.rr.com. The website is rowanbluesandjazz.org.

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