Lake Norman & Mooresville

New jazz fest for Old Town Cornelius

Case Warnemunde
Case Warnemunde

Five groups are scheduled to take the stage July 18 for the inaugural Old Town Cornelius Jazz Festival at Smithville Park.

The event also will include six food trucks, beer from Cornelius breweries Ass Clown and D9, and a kids zone.

A “live” painting created at the event by Cornelius artist Justin Christenbery will be sold in a silent auction.

“We’re not sure what the painting will be yet,” said Case Warnemunde, founder of Bella Love, the Cornelius arts and entertainment incubator that is organizing the festival. “But I’m sure it will be something jazzy and soulful.”

Proceeds from the event will go to the Smithville Community Coalition, which represents and advocates for the historically African-American Smithville community, south of Catawba Avenue in Cornelius. The festival is being co-sponsored by the Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Department and the Cornelius Cultural Arts Group.

For Bella Love, which organizes popular downtown Cornelius events including ‘Tawba Walk Art Crawl and Second Friday, the partnership with the Smithville organization was a perfect fit, Warnemunde said.

“Their mission and vision are so close to ours,” he said. “We want to uplift and connect this part of town we call Old Town Cornelius, east of I-77. It’s a wonderful and historical part of this community, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Warnemunde and Bella Love have been part of a resurgence of business and activity in the downtown area, including at the historic Oak Street Mill, where the organization hosts concerts, comedy shows and other events.

In the case of the Smithville event, building it around jazz seemed like the right fit, Warnemunde said.

“There’s been a lot of talk that Lake Norman needs a lot more jazz music,” Warnemunde said. “We wanted to do something that stands out and has an edge to it. This accomplishes that, I think.”

Funds raised at the event will be used to offset the costs of a $150,000 “splash pad” planned for Smithville Park. The Cornelius Town Board agreed in February to fund the project when it got a commitment from the Lake Norman Kiwanis Club to raise funds to cover at least $30,000 of the cost.

Groups scheduled to perform are The Message, Shades of Brown, the Calvin Edwards Trio, Exodus, and the Smithville Community Choir.

John Deem is a freelance writer. Have a story for John? Email him at

Want to go?

The Old Town Cornelius Jazz Festival will be held 4-9 p.m. July 18 at Smithville Park, on South Ferry Street, just east of Exit 28 off Interstate 77. Admission and parking are free.