By Courtney Wirths
Perfect September afternoons are made up of sunshine, crisp breezes, great music and the company of friends.
Last Sunday, Aug. 31, Princeton held its 23rd annual JazzFeast on the Green at Palmer’s Square. JazzFeast, which lasts all afternoon, is a free open-air jazz and food festival put on by the town.
Walking down Nassau Street, the sounds of the performers drew listeners in from the roads and down the cobblestone paths lined with the booths and tents of local restaurants.
The colors of fall were everywhere, from the turning of summer leaves to orange and red to the window displays of the town’s shops. Children were running around clutching caramel apples covered in candies that they had just gotten from Thomas Sweets Café – an autumn classic. Parents ran behind with a handful of napkins.
My friends and I arrived early in the afternoon, and the festival had already begun. After some exploring, meandering and a little toe-tapping, we decided to grab a quick lunch. There were so many options it was difficult to decide – crepes, noodles, a booth dedicated exclusively to roasting corn on the cob – the Square smelled marvelous.
My group decided on Triumph Brewery’s tent. We each ordered a falafel and dug in while we sat on the sidewalk and people-watched. The food was delicious. Messy enough to make you smile and cover your face, but not too much of a hassle to eat in your lap on the nearest park bench.
When we finished, we moved down toward the music to claim a seat on the busy lawn. Most of the chairs were filled, so we opted for a patch of grass at the very front. Sitting on denim-jacket picnic blankets, we could finally sit back and give the performers our full attention.
Cynthia Sayer & Sparks Fly were starting up just as we had a seat. Front and center was Sayer – absolutely full of life and strumming on her jazz banjo, she captivated the crowd. Sparks Fly did an excellent job contributing to each piece.
Some of the more memorable pieces included their own version of “I Love Paris;” an original tune called “You Talk Too Much,” which earned numerous laughs and applauses from the crowd, and finally, a cover by the bass player of Louis Armstrong’s classic “By and By,” which took the audience back to the Jazz Age itself.
The audience was active, frequently clapping and dancing along with the performers.
Overall, Princeton’s JazzFeast was a beautiful event. When the jazz stopped, a bittersweet silence fell over the Square as listeners gathered their things to head home. It was the perfect way to ring in fall, and my friends and I will certainly be making it an annual tradition.