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Berks Jazz Fest hauls in $5M annual revenue

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Trumpeter Rick Braun, an Allentown native, performs April 6 in the grand ballroom at DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Hotel in Reading.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Trumpeter Rick Braun, an Allentown native, performs April 6 in the grand ballroom at DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Hotel in Reading.

The 10-day Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest is a well-respected jazz festival recognized as one of the largest and most diverse music festivals of its kind.

Each year, the event draws about 40,000 people from all over the country, bringing in an estimated $5.03 million in revenue from ticket sales, food, lodging, shopping and more.

That figure is according to a 2014 study commissioned by the Berks Arts Council, which presents the festival, and is spurred by more than 70 percent of Jazz Fest attendees residing outside of Berks County.

More than three-quarters of those visitors hail from households with incomes above the median income of Berks residents, so local hoteliers and restauranteurs say they can see this higher purchasing power and its financial impact.

“It’s the kind of festival every community wishes for,” said Crystal Seitz, president of the Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau.

She said the festival arrives at a good time of year, stimulating the economy of Reading and county and filling hotels during what had been a slow time of the year.


The 28th annual Jazz Fest this April 6-15 will be held at six large venues and about 100 small venues such as restaurants, schools, churches and clubs, all in Berks County, including Reading. The venues are for both large and intimate concerts, jam sessions and music education.

The festival features 50 ticketed events at large venues such as the Inn at Reading in Wyomissing and Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading. The small venues mostly host free events.

The Jazz Fest is funded by ticket sales, sponsorship, grants and merchandise sales, according to Karen Haver, executive director of the Berks Arts Council. About 20,000 tickets are sold each year.


Hospitality is one of the industries most helped by the Berks Jazz Fest. The 2014 study found that 68.7 percent of out-of-town visitors stay overnight.

Craig Poole, general manager at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Hotel in the city’s downtown, said as soon as Jazz Fest tickets go on sale, the hotel sells out for both weekends.

“It isn’t just the Doubletree that benefits,” Poole said. “The Jazz Fest has a massive impact on the entire county and fills up every hotel.”

According to the 2014 data, 16,880 Jazz Fest visitors stayed in Berks for at least one night. Of those visitors, 23.4 percent stayed one night, 38.3 percent stayed two nights and 24 percent stayed three nights.


The average room rate across Berks County in April 2014 was $91.48 per night, and the average spent by Jazz Fest visitors was $118.

The report said that the estimated 23,332 nights stayed by Jazz Fest visitors represented just more than 56 percent of countywide hotel/motel paid occupancy that month.

Data indicated the Jazz Fest was directly responsible for $1.99 million in revenue for the Berks hospitality industry.


Restaurants also experience significant financial benefits from the festival. The study estimated the Jazz Fest was directly responsible for $1.02 million in revenue for Berks restaurants in 2014.

Visitors from outside Berks spent an average of about $72 on dining in the county and accounted for about $730,000 in revenue.

The remaining $290,000 were spent by Berks residents who said they dined before or after a Jazz Fest event.


Michael Leifer, president/CEO of the Peanut Bar in Reading, said, business is boosted by 30 to 40 percent during the festival.

“The Jazz Fest is huge for us. It’s a great time. It shows Reading in a very positive way and shows that Reading is a fun place to visit,” he said.

“People that come in for the Jazz Fest remember the great time and great food, and they definitely come back other times of the year.”

Judy A. Henry, owner of Judy’s on Cherry and the Speckled Hen Cottage Pub and Ale House, both in Reading, said her sales increase by about 15 percent during the Jazz Fest and that it provides a nice influx of people into the county.


Jazz Fest general manager John Ernesto said many Berks residents also pay for dry cleaners, babysitters, gas and other things as a result of going to the Jazz Fest.

Poole said many residents don’t realize the ancillary income that flows into Berks County as a result of the Jazz Fest.

He noted that festival goers also frequent shops and movie theaters.

People are coming from areas such as Bucks County, Pittsburgh, Delaware, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, and – according to Poole – they aren’t afraid to spend money.


The study found that about 30 percent of visitors from outside Berks visited other attractions during their visit, and 71 percent said they spent $1.74 million on activities other than event tickets, dining and hotels.

In 2014, about 3,000 visitors went to a Boscov’s in Berks, roughly 2,800 went to the Berkshire Mall and about 1,700 shopped in West Reading.

Other places visited included the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township and the Pagoda in Reading and places outside Berks, such as the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Montgomery County and Hershey Park in Dauphin County.

Forty percent of Berks County residents said they spent money on other activities – besides dining – as a result of the Jazz Fest to the tune of about $280,000.


Some of the effects of the Jazz Fest are indirect and difficult to measure.

Poole said the festival is known around the world and has an excellent reputation, which helps shine a positive light on the area and builds Reading as a destination city.

“Reputation is everything,” he said.

The Berks Jazz Fest introduces people to the Reading/Berks area and some become repetitive customers who return two or three times a year for a one- or two-night getaway, Poole said.

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