The 15th anniversary of the Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival was celebrated Aug. 26-27, presenting more than 30 jazz performances on five stages spanning the village's Center Street corridor. The opening night kickoff was highlighted by the presentation of the annual Jazz Ambassador Award to Dick Soluri, who was instrumental in the creation of the award-winning music festival.
Fifteen years ago, Soluri, then Village of Lewiston mayor, met with Ron Ciamaga, head of the New York State Power Authority at the time, and, together, they decided to start a music festival. The first event, featuring Gap Mangione, was held at Hennepin Park's small gazebo. That first time out, the park at the corner of Fourth and Center streets was large enough to hold those in attendance.
Over the years, the Lewiston Jazz Festival grew, in a large part due to the dedication of an active board - especially Soluri.
Several years into the festival, NYPA had to cease its funding ($75,000) due to a ruling by the attorney general. While this could have been the end of the festival, Soluri would not let that happen, working tirelessly to promote the annual August event, and to raise the additional funds needed to keep this festival alive.
Today, the event is alive and well - and arguably the biggest event in Lewiston.
Over the years, Soluri has guided the festival through "thick and thin," as a board member, chairman and now co-chairman.
He was an avid supporter of Artpark's "Jazz Weekends" years ago, encouraging the local restaurants to provide live music over the weekend. In recent years, Lewiston enjoyed "Jazz at the Gazebo" on Wednesdays during the summer - another series spearheaded by Soluri.
In presenting the Jazz Ambassador Award at this year's festival opening, Carol Calato, Jazz Festival board chairwoman, said, "This year we recognize someone who may not be a musician. ... But we call this the Jazz Ambassador Award. And we have no more dedicated and determined an ambassador than Lewiston's Dick Soluri."
Pictured: Richard Soluri receives his Jazz Ambassador Award from Carol Calato. (Photo by Wayne Peters)