Hitting the right note Large crowd attends JazzFeast

via Leah Kahn/ Princeton Packet

2014-09-16_11-12-44The last thing that Dan Zaksas and Elisa Wagman had planned to do on Sunday was to sit at a table on Palmer Square West, listening to jazz music at Palmer Square’s 23rd annual JazzFeast. The West Chester, Pennsylvania, couple set out Sunday morning to visit the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township. But they discovered that it was closed for the day.And that’s how they ended up in Princeton.

“It was an accident that we discovered JazzFeast,” Mr. Zaksas said. “We love it. Now that we know about it, we will come back on purpose. We are not regular listeners to jazz, but we are certainly enjoying it, especially in a setting like this.”

Mr. Zaksas and Ms. Wagman were among the hundreds of people who thronged Palmer Square to listen to jazz bands on a warm, sunny afternoon. The musicians took turns, playing on a stage set up on the lawn in front of the Nassau Inn.

The grassy area was filled with jazz lovers. Many folks brought collapsible camping chairs, and others brought lawn chairs. For those who forgot to bring a chair, there was plenty of room to sit on the steps of the Princeton post office.Unlike Mr. Zaksas and Ms. Wagman, the Eby family — parents Wayne and Sara, and 9-year-old Zoe and 2-year-old Sophia — knew about JazzFeast, which combines a jazz festival with a food festival. Besides the music, restaurants set up shop on the square so visitors could sample their specialties.”We (learned) on Friday that they were having this activity,” Mr. Eby said. The Princeton family had other activities on their agenda, but they decided to stop at JazzFeast. Mr. Eby said he likes jazz, but his wife is not such a big fan of jazz music.

“I like jazz. I like Herbie Hancock. I have been listening to a lot of his music. My wife likes jazz somewhat, but probably not as much as me,” Mr. Eby said.

Ms. Eby does, however, enjoy food.

“There are a bunch of good food stands. I love food. I like Indian food and I like seafood. I had some paella, and I am still hungry,” she said with a laugh.

There was certainly no lack of food. Vendors offered everything from seafood, Indian, Chinese, crepes and pizza to Caribbean food and soul food — jerk chicken, jerk pork, curry chicken, curry goat, ox tails, rice and beans, collard greens, corn bread and candied yams.

For the less adventurous whose palates favored more traditional fare, good old-fashioned hot dogs and hamburgers could be found at some booths. Pork roll was also available, as well as popcorn, funnel cake and corn dogs.

Tables and chairs were set up along the perimeter of Palmer Square West and on the west side of Tiger Park — the small grassy island at the top of Palmer Square at Nassau Street. One group of visitors brought along a folding table that they set up in the middle of Tiger Park, to accommodate the assortment of food they purchased from the vendors.

Meanwhile, most of the tables along Palmer Square West were filled by visitors who were happily munching away. For those who could not find a table, there were plenty of places on the curb to sit down and eat — and that’s what many folks did.

While food was the draw for many visitors, there were just as many for whom jazz was the main attraction.

“We like jazz,” said Tom Griggs, who was sitting on a collapsible camping chair.

“It’s a beautiful day, and we both like jazz,” agreed Glenda Griggs. “We came for the music, not the food. (Palmer Square) is always a nice venue. There is a mix of performers. It’s a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

The Hightstown residents have been attending JazzFeast for at least 10 years — long enough, as Ms. Griggs said, “to know enough to bring chairs.”