It was shortly before noon when the first brassy notes — from a Half Moon Bay High School ensemble — cut the Saturday morning air. The sound coming from the Main Stage was so clean and so clear it seemed to blow the fog back from whence it came. The Half Moon Bay Wine and Jazz Festival was underway.

You might be thinking: Do we need this? Do Coastsiders need another spring festival that brings visitors and traffic and noise and so on. Allow me to answer that: Yes. Yes, we do.

We don’t need one more event, per se, but we do need new thinking around Half Moon Bay’s downtown. If we’re going to have a vibrant, quirky, one-of-a-kind retail center that is fun and useful for both Coastsiders and visitors, the Half Moon Bay Wine and Jazz Festival is a shining example of exactly what we need.

We admit that it initially felt a bit far afield from the usual charming, small-town events that have put this town on the map till now. The San Mateo County coast isn’t exactly known for its wine. And jazz, while as American as apple pie, is not always paired with Coastside olallieberry pie. And we wondered about ticket prices that began at $57 when so many downtown events are traditionally free. But it’s hard to argue that point when organizers sold out of VIP tickets that ran nearly twice that.

If you were downtown on Saturday you noticed the vibe. There is something inherently genius about pairing California wines with cool jazz, especially if you are lucky enough to get a 65-degree, sunny coastal day. It certainly felt like a home run from our office, which had a clear sightline to the Main Stage. Behind the scenes, the Downtown Association is doing more than pouring wine and listening to music. It’s also responsible for the new trash, composting and recycling receptacles along Main Street and is commited to more public art.

We are blessed with terrific traditional events. Things like the upcoming Ol’ Fashioned Fourth of July Parade and the holiday-themed Night of Lights — and of course the iconic Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival are terrific affairs and unique to this special place. Perhaps best, they are intended for locals even if they draw participants from far and wide.

The Half Moon Bay Wine and Jazz Festival is different. And that is key to its success. There may be wine and jazz fests elsewhere, but there is little like it here, designed to attract people with money from over the hill. And that fact alone is a boon to local businesses like Sacrilege Brewing Co. and Breakwater Barbecue, which took advantage of booth space to make sales that wouldn’t have happened without a new vision and a special event.

The festival was a production of the Half Moon Bay Downtown Association. Its mission is to bring awareness and commerce to the beating heart of the city. On this one, it hit all the right notes.

Clay Lambert is the editorial director for Coastside News Group. After years working at regional daily newspapers, he began as editor of the Half Moon Bay Review in 2004.

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