BURLINGTON – In 1984, an intrepid team of musicians and musicologists happened upon an ancient map located in a dusty old book found in the Fletcher Free Library. The map suggested the possibility of jazz music hidden somewhere in the city of Burlington, and so was born what is now known as the Discover Jazz Festival.
The festival, which started as a group of seven colleagues following tattered and cryptic clues, now boasts close to a thousand participants, as treasure hunters the world over descend on Burlington every year hoping to find a bit of jazz for themselves. The map and the handwritten clues are now available digitally for any wishing to search for the jazz on their own, although after decades of scouring the city with no success, the festival organizers hold out small hope that any will be discovered this year.
“No, I haven’t found any jazz,” laughs festival co-founder Utah Johnson, “but it isn’t about actually discovering jazz. It’s about the search itself. And we do have a few days left this year, so you never know. Maybe there is still a stone left to turn over. I do think that someday, somewhere, the jazz will be discovered. Just probably not by me!”
The Discover Jazz Festival runs through Sunday. Maps, pickaxes, fedoras, whips, and mining helmets are available for sale on Church Street. Any jazz discovered will most likely be the property of the city of Burlington, but there is a sizable reward offered by the festival to anyone who can actually prove that jazz exists.