The New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival honors four who were sponsors, one who assisted the festival, one artist and two musician.
Walter Johnson was born in Deland and came to New Smyrna Beach in 1980 to purchase Settle Wilder Funeral Home, which he operated for forty years. He was active in the community and was past commodore of both Smyrna Yacht Club and Anglers Yacht Club. His hobbies included aviation as a licensed commercial pilot, which allowed innumerable trips to the Bahamas and other places, boating, fishing and playing the piano which he did at the Smyrna Yacht Club on numerous occasions. He enjoyed listening to the late Harold Blanchard playing improvisational jazz. Walter was a sponsor of the New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival since 2001.
Ira was born in Washington, D.C. and picked up a trumpet at age 3-1/2, not long before his family moved to Chicago. During his career in the windy city, he played with jazz greats Charlie Parker and Lester Young. He moved to Miami in 1962 and was popular in the Central Florida area. Ira played at Clancy’s Cantina for the 2012 NSB Jazz Festival.
Bobby Mercer was known as “Mr. Entertainment” with his Bobby Mercer Roadshow that toured the country and, for over 30 years, performed annually at Hersheypark and The Allentown Fair in Eastern PA. Born in Nova Scotia, Bobby lived in Pennsylvania for many years before moving to Orlando where he made a name for himself at several venues. Locally, he was popular at the Images Art Festival from 2008 to 2014 and The NSB Jazz Festival in 2005, 2007 and 2011.
Artist-musician Don Nedobeck, most known as “The Cat Artist” split his time between DeLand and Milwaukee, WI. He moved to DeLand about 30 years ago, and for many years he was a regular exhibitor at the Flamingo Follies and the Art Fiesta in NSB plus entertaining early in the morning with his trio at those venues. In 2013, Don created the art work for the NSB Jazz Festival titled “The Black Cat Trio” and it was a big seller.