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Jazz In The Park Won’t Let Gang Violence Hamper Its Future

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Jazz in the Park (credit: CBS)

Jazz in the Park (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – After the death of Officer Celena Hollis the night of June 24, the people who run Jazz in the Park were wondering, what now? Would violence end their dream? The president of Jazz in the Park told CBS4’s Alan Gionet he woke up the next morning and thought it was over, but then thought it over.

A picture of Hollis is staying with Jazz in the Park. Her image placed in a spot where she worked.

“That’s where she hung out,” Jazz in the Park President Chris Zacher said. “That’s where she could see down this way and she could see down this way.”

Zacher says after the death of Hollis, who was his friend, he thought maybe the concerts couldn’t go on.

“We started this event in 1986 in response to violence that was taking place in the park in the 1980s; drug dealing, gang cruising, homeless, and it was a way to bring people back to this park and reclaim it for the city,” Zacher said.

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The event had become an institution.

“The park wakes up. You know, we’re here on a day when there’s people walking around and there’s some activity in the park, but not like on Sundays when the jazz show is going.

“It took a long time to get to the size that it is now. It was never intended to be this large. It was intended to be a neighborhood celebration. And when the recession started, it just blew up and it was crazy.”

celena hollis Jazz In The Park Wont Let Gang Violence Hamper Its Future

Officer Celena Hollis (credit: Denver Police)

It’s free music at a beautiful setting, and it all stitched the city and the park together.

This year, before the night when Hollis died, the attendance was better than ever — over 10,000. After the shooting it dropped by 30 percent, but Hollis would have wanted Jazz in the Park to go on.

“You get all different walks of life out here, all different income levels, different political beliefs, different religious beliefs.

It’s basic human decency and culture and love of music. And a park that’s alive with a banner bearing the image of Hollis watching over things.

“Every week I still hang one up in the back and I don’t think I’ll ever quit doing that because I put it right where she stood every Sunday.

Next year they’ll return, hopefully stronger than ever. Violence cannot stop the music and what Hollis stood for.

The free concerts start again around the beginning of June next year.  So bring a lawn chair, blanket and food and join the people who love culture and are devoted to keeping the park alive.

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