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Originally called the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival when it was first held in 1962, the Macy's Music Festival has grown and evolved into a spectacular two-day event on Cincinnati's riverfront. Starting out as an all-jazz concert, it has evolved and grown into a two-day festival featuring great music from the hottest stars in R&B, jazz, soul, and hip-hop, as well as up and coming artists. Past performers include Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Gerald Levert, Patti Labelle, New Edition, Earth Wind and Fire, Lakeside, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and many others.

By the year 2000, the festival was the largest of its kind in the United States, drawing more than 50,000 people annually from all across the country.

The festival has been held at various sites through its 50 year history, including French Lick Indiana, the Carthage Fairgrounds, and the Hamilton County Fairgrounds before landing at its current home in Paul Brown Stadium on Cincinnati's river front. Accompanied by a street festival dubbed Festival 513, the Macy's Music Festival has an estimated annual economic impact of $25 million, according to the Greater Cincinnati Center for Economic Education at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2005, Macy's became the festival's headline sponsor, a role it has continued ever since.