Although Jeremy Fey grew up in Denver, Central City was important to him as a kid because he took weekend excursions up there with his family. The city was once a hotbed of culture, but, Jeremy says, when casino gambling was introduced in the early ’90s, it pushed out everything else. After living out of state for about fifteen years, he returned to Colorado in late 2016.
“I was walking around the town with tears in my eyes,” he says about being back in the mountain town. “I was very sad for the town. It was shocking for me to see Central City, which is really the seat of Colorado and the origin of Colorado, and to see 74 percent vacancies in the commercial district.”
Jeremy, son of famed concert impresario Barry Fey, had been working on bringing hospitality and artist residencies together in Denver but decided to move to Central City in 2017 because Denver’s real estate properties were getting so ridiculously high that his business plan was no longer viable.
“So all of a sudden I was pulled up to Central City, and voilà, there’s vacancies, the history, the need for rejuvenation of arts and entertainment,” he says.
Part of that rejuvenation was a reboot of the Central City Jazz Festival, which ran from 1976 through 1992, right around the time that gaming came into play. Red Underground's John Joy, who manages Leftover Salmon, brought the concept to Jeremy; together with his Jeremy's brother Tyler (who's carrying on their father’s Feyline banner), they helped launch Central Jazz last summer as a one-day festival.
This year, Jeremy Fey was elected mayor of Central City; Tyler, who has faced legal troubles related to his 2017 New Year's Eve on the Rocks concert, moved to Los Angeles.
Without his brother in town, Jeremy says, his team has been working with Central City Opera, a major partner in Central Jazz that received grant funding from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, which helps support the arts in Colorado.
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The festival will cover two days this year, June 7 and 8, with four stages heavy on New Orleans funk acts such as Dumpstaphunk, George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners, New Orleans Suspects, as well as British group the New Mastersounds, whose members (including guitarist Eddie Roberts, who now lives in Denver) clearly know their way around the swampy funk of the Crescent City.
While access to Main Street stages and the Tips Stage in the Grand Z Casino is free, day and weekend passes — $29 to $69 — get you access to the Fairgrounds Stage at the Teller Opera House lot. Venus Cruz, who performed at last year’s festival, will be the emcee for this year’s event.
This year's lineup also includes Wes Watkins, Brothers of Brass, Melvin Seals & JGB, the Copper Children, the Jauntee and more. And in keeping with the festival's New Orleans theme, there will be Mardi Gras-style attractions.
Central Jazz, 6 p.m. Friday, June 7, and 11 a.m. Saturday, June 8, downtown Central City. One-day and two-day passes are $29 to $69; VIP packages start at $99.