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Texas Jazz Festival: a South Texas tradition going 60 years strong

Family is a big part of our culture as South Texans, and that is no different when it comes to the origin story for the famous Texas Jazz Fest.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With big events like the Texas Jazz Festival, it's easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement; but have you ever wondered just how it came to be? 

As it turns out, family plays an instrumental part in its origin story. Family is undeniably a big part of our culture as South Texans, and that's no different when it comes to this festival in particular. 

Norma Davison and Terri Santoya are the daughters of one of the late founders of the festival, Beto Garcia. Since they were young, the sisters shared that along with their other sister, Cecilia, music was always at celebrated and played in their home.

There at Heritage Park near the main stage sits a bench with a marker in honor of Mr. Garcia. It's that same spot where musicians over the years and volunteers would go to find Mr. Garcia if they needed anything. While he may not physically be there, it's safe to say he has the best seat of the house. 

"Everyone would always say, 'Where's Beto?' We'd say, 'You know where he's at every year.' He would always be here and you could always find him," Santoya said.

Celebrating jazz music, while also ensuring that it is free and accessible to all families, had always been the vision for Garcia.

"His dream was to always have a free festival, so that families could come and enjoy jazz music. He never believed in charging to enter and thanks to the volunteers, his dream is still being kept alive," Santoya said. 

"For 60 years," added Davison. "It's a blessing." 

It's that blessing that's now the focus of a new generation, something we see in Mr. Garcia's grandson, Jon Perez, who is also a musician and happens to be the pianist and musical director for the group "Latin Talk."

"We were always around it growing up. It had been in existence prior to when I was born, but as a youth, it was mandatory that we came, and we loved to come," Perez said. "It was something we loved and looked forward to." 

Having grown up around the musicians who would travel to play in Corpus Christi, Perez said it didn't take long for everyone to become more like family.

"It's basically a family reunion with distant cousins that we get to see each other each weekend, hang out, see each other and jam out," Perez said.

He added that his grandfather referred to the festival as a "miracle festival."

"He realized that only God could orchestrate something like this over the last 60 years," Perez said. "And that was through the co-founders, the board of directors, the sponsors, the volunteers and the countless musicians that have graced the stage. It's truly an act of love, a labor of love."

So, at this year's Jazz Fest, know that it's so much bigger than the great music on display: it's a South Texas family's prayer answered for all to hear and enjoy. 

On 3News at 10 Friday night, 3News anchor Leslie Adami will share more of the festival's origin story with the family of Mr. Garcia as well as festival president, Nick Martinez. 

The 2022 Jazz Festival will take place Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19. 

Some of the returning artists include Tom Braxton, Kyle Turner, Billy Ray Sheppard, Freddie Martinez, the Biohazzard Brass Band and much more. 

Friday's festivities will officially kick off at 5 p.m. at the CITGO North Stage, and on Saturday the fun begins at noon. 

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