Organizers singing happy tune after picture-perfect Jazz Fest

The Rich Wheeler Quartet took the stage on a perfect September afternoon for the third Prairie Village Jazz Fest.

Prairie Village Jazz Fest lead organizer Jack Shearer says there may have been an off note or two in the lead up to yesterday’s picture-perfect event on the Harmon Park hill — but his ensemble team worked seamlessly to pull the tune off.

An estimated 6,000 people attended the festival, which returned for a full program its third year after being severely truncated by an intense storm last year. The crowd grew larger and larger as the day went on. By the time Mike Metheny finished up his set and Bobby Watson was preparing to take the stage, the hill was full, with patrons setting up on blankets behind trees just to find a place to sit.

“I think we made a giant step forward in showing we can do this year after year as long as the weather is good,” Shearer said Sunday, decompressing after a long week of work leading up to Saturday’s festival. “But we’re going to jump right back in and start meeting as a committee soon to put down in writing what we want to change for next year.”

Shearer said a couple of small glitches the morning of the event had his already team plotting for better logistics next year.

For example, the piano arrived a half hour late Saturday morning – and when it did, stage hands found they couldn’t get it into place as they’d planned. That left organizers scrambling to find a group of volunteers willing to help lug the 400-pound instrument up onto the stage. The company that had planned to provide a mobile ATM for the event was a no show, too.

But, overall, Shearer said, he couldn’t have asked for things to come off much better.

“The performers were amazing — and I think they really like the venue,” he said. “Mike Metheny — he’s such a nice, professional guy — and Megan Birdsall both went out of their way to let us know how much they appreciated the opportunity to come to place like this and have an hour to show people what they can do.”

Shearer said he felt good about the event’s financial performance as well. He says the corporate party tent idea they tried this year with Chad Taylor or Keller Williams Realty could prove an excellent model for increasing revenue in the future and attracting a great lineup.

Dan Andersen, one of the event’s co-founders who returned to the organizing committee this year after leaving last year, said he felt Saturday’s event was a return to what he had initially envisioned for the Jazz Fest.

“This should be a place for national-caliber artists with local ties to come back and share their talents,” he said. “This year’s lineup did that — and we’re already talking about who we might want to see here next year.”

Bobby Watson, introducing his band.

Below, a panoramic photo taken early in the day: