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The Detroit International Jazz Festival was founded in 1980 by Robert McCabe and the Detroit Renaissance. Along with the Detroit Grand Prix and the International Freedom Festival, Jazz Fest was intended to bring people into the city and to provide all segments of the population with world-class entertainment. It quickly became a Labor Day Weekend tradition at Hart Plaza, a city park along the Detroit River designed by Isamu Noguchi and Shuji Sadao.
From 1980 to 1991, the festival flourished through a partnership with the highly regarded international jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland, sharing performers and commissioned poster art