Why travel all the way to the Hollywood Bowl when you can have the same top-notch musical experience here in Ventura County? Jazz great Dave Koz will be giving a concert under the stars, capping a leisurely day of art and music at the Camarillo Arts and Jazz Festival on Sept. 13. Even gourmet picnic dinners will be available to order ahead of time.

This year’s emphasis on headliner jazz is what really excites the organizers. “I think what we’re trying to do is make this not just a regular old concert, but a really unique experience,” says Richard Wagner, co-chair of the event. “Hopefully, the festival-goers will come away saying that it was a one-of-a-kind event.”

Wagner’s partner in planning, former Ventura County Supervisor and festival co-chair Maggie Kildee shares his enthusiasm. “The music is great,” Kildee says. “There will be five stages going on all day long with music. They are local bands and they are excellent. They range from jazz to blues to gospel, the whole gamut of jazz.”

“There is nothing else in the county where you have so many performers,” Wagner says. “We’ll have a battle of the jazz bands from local high schools, and the winner will be the opening to the Dave Koz concert.”

The Dave Koz & Friends concert is scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m. Koz is a six-time Grammy-nominated saxophonist who has been playing with rock greats for two decades. He is a platinum-selling artist and has performed with Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Kenny Loggins, U2, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross and Rod Stewart.

art2Koz has also established himself as a humanitarian, serving as Global Ambassador for the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation for the past 15 years; as an entrepreneur, founding Rendezvous Entertainment; as a radio host of two different syndicated shows seven days a week; and as an instrumental music advocate. Additionally, Koz has a new album, released this month.

This year, the price of admission to the concert has been lowered for students to $20. General admission for festival seating is $40 and $60 for a reserved chair. But Kildee encourages concertgoers to bring their own chairs and a picnic for dinner.

Kildee is especially enthused about the food. “One of the neat things about the concert site in the evening is there will be food vendors on site at the concert, so you can buy food there,” she says. “But it is really kind of unique that we have three restaurants that are selling gourmet boxed dinners.”

You just have to order the dinner ahead of time. The restaurants participating in this new venture are Enotec Toscana, J.J. Brewsky’s and Marie Callender’s — just call the restaurants to place your order.

Kildee says the restaurants are making it even easier to enjoy the musical night. “They bring those box dinners to the concert site, so you don’t even have to go anywhere to pick them up.”

If you are still wondering whether there will be your kind of food at the venue, California Pizza Kitchen will be there making pizzas right at the concert.

Kildee says there is still another reason to attend the show. “The thing that makes this concert, in my mind, really unique is it is not only for the community to come and have a good time all day, but it’s a benefit concert,” Kildee says. “The proceeds from this concert go to benefit art and music scholarships at Cal State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI); it will benefit Studio Channel Islands Art Center, and it will benefit art and music education in our schools. So the whole thing is aimed at art and music education making sure that kids get an opportunity to participate.”

Before going to the show, you can stroll along Ventura Boulevard and a few of the adjoining side streets to enjoy the art displays. “The caliber of the art is very good,” Kildee says. “It is all juried art.” Additionally, some of the Old Town stores and restaurants will be showing artwork inside. The artwalk is free.

Kildee says parking will be available at a number of sites surrounding Old Town. “Shuttle buses will run from Amtrak down Ventura Boulevard making a couple of stops,” Kildee said. “The shuttle runs all the way out to the Camarillo Premium

Outlets where there will be parking. It begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m.”

There will also be shuttle buses running out to the Farmer’s Market area and Dizdar Park. The evening concert will be held at Los Primeros School at 2222 E. Ventura Blvd.

“I’m sure we will have several thousand people attending,” Kildee says. “We’ve had up to 10,000 come through the concerts and festivals before, so we’re looking at something like that.”

art3This will be the first major event in the Old Town area following recent renovations. Old Town is roughly the strip of Ventura Boulevard, which runs parallel to the 101 Freeway, between Lewis Road and Carmen Drive. In prior years, the event had been scattered across a few days and several venues. Organizers are expecting a bigger turnout by gathering all of the events into one day and just a few locations. Also, the event was scheduled later in the summer due to earlier confusion about the festival and the series of concerts given at Camarillo’s Constitution Park.

Bob Burrow, a planner for the City of Camarillo, says the changes in Old Town are hard to miss.

“We have narrowed down the streets to make it more pedestrian-oriented, introduced street furniture and landscaping to make it much more of a walkable area,” Burrow says.

Burrow says there have been a lot of changes behind the scenes. “We have also rezoned the area and are encouraging private landowners to participate,” Burrow says. “It is now the Old Town zone, which recognizes that it’s not just like the other shopping areas in town and owners could not really use the same type of suburban shopping center design standards. It is not like the rest of Camarillo. It evokes more of an eclectic style of architecture, a little bit more of the past instead of modern interpretations.”

There are more projects in the works and more improvements are planned for the existing Old Town area. “We acquired the old fire station, the old courthouse, and we will be working on reuse plans for those properties,” Burrow says.

Part of the motivation for the renewal of this business district is connected to the opening of CSUCI five years ago. “This is sort of a gateway to CSUCI,” Burrow says. “If students or faculty want to go to the area for business or entertainment, there are buses that run from the campus to Old Town.”

Burrow says Old Town will become more important to students and faculty as new housing and residential units start to go up and become occupied. “The campus is still a little bit on the smaller side,” Burrow said, “but we are laying the groundwork for the future.”   

The festival on Sept. 13 begins at 11 a.m. with the art walk in Old Town. Gates for the concert open at 4 p.m., and the Dave Koz concert is scheduled to end at 10 p.m. For more information, call 484-4383.