Downtown Augusta will be filled with saxophones, dancing feet and good vibes Sunday - and it’s all for a good cause.
The Augusta United Negro College Fund Campaign is hosting its inaugural Ann N. Johnson UNCF Jazz Festival at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater to raise scholarship money for Paine College students.
The festival will host five main acts and a preshow performance beginning at 5 p.m. and will feature food and craft vendors, according to Augusta UNCF Campaign Coordinator Leadra Collins.
Collins said Augusta has a campaign goal this year of $75,000 to be raised between the jazz fest and other activities like fundraiser walks and lunch banquets.
While the campaign will donate its funds to UNCF, a scholarship organization for African American students with 39 member schools, 75 percent of what is raised will come back to Paine, Collins said.
“We want it to be really successful so it can help as many people,” Collins said. “We want to get the community engaged to enjoy good music and fellowship.”
The jazz festival is being revived after at least 20 years of inactivity, according to this year’s namesake Ann N. Johnson.
Johnson said Paine began hosting a Labor Day weekend concert in the 1970s to benefit the college, but it was cut off around 1989 when the costs became too expensive.
“It’s time to bring it back,” she said.
Johnson began working for Paine full-time after graduating from there in 1971. She served as assistant to the vice president for fiscal affairs, director of personnel and executive assistant to two presidents before retiring in 1998.
During her career at Paine, Johnson was responsible for organizing the annual concert and bringing in notable acts to perform. She also bore witness to the fire that gutted Haygood Hosey Hall in 1968, the race riots of 1970 that canceled that year’s commencement ceremony, the expansion of the campus and development of new programs.
She said this festival will play a role in getting the community behind Paine and helping put students on a path to continuing their education.
“Paine has meant so much to the community and to us personally,” Johnson said of herself and husband Ellis Johnson, a Paine graduate and retired educator.
“This helps realize the vision I have for Paine College and for students to encourage them and to give them financial support to be successful and reach their career goals,” she said. “If we can help young people do that, it would be a miraculous thing.”