An amber sun sets on Panama City Beach and I watch two couples, vacationers from Mobile, Alabama, dance amid hundreds of others in the Seabreeze Jazz Festival attendance. It is their second day at the event and the energy from the first day hasn’t waned at all. Around them, vendor booths selling artwork, food, wine and music make a halo around the Pier Park’s outdoor amphitheater. Creamy jazz rhythms saturate the air. From where I stand, the couples are having a wonderful time, as is everyone else. Reluctant to interrupt their fun, I stopped and asked them what they thought about the festival. One of the husbands, still dancing, shouted back to me, “Ya’ll should do this kind of stuff more often. This is the most fun I’ve ever had in Panama City.”
Nick Colionne at the 2009 Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Pier Park Panama City Beach from Jason Koertge on Vimeo.
That was the scene at this weekend’s Seabreeze Jazz festival held at Pier Park. If you missed this it, you missed on heck of an event. The place was packed, the food was delicious and the music intoxicated everyone in the amphitheater. Hosted by internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Nick Colionne, the event featured some of the most skilled jazz musicians in the world. The likes of Eric Darius, Boney James, Wayman Tisdale, Will Downing, Althea Rene, Warren Hill, Joyce Cooling and others hit Panama City Beach like a silk-covered bomb. From the start of the event until the end the music was just outstanding; without doubt the best you’ll ever hear live in one sitting. Singers, Guitarists, Saxophonists, Fluotists–you name it, they rocked it. The attendance was stratospheric; not an empty patch of grass anywhere. And best of all, the artists loved being on Panama City Beach.
“The Seabreeze Jazz Festival is at the top of my list because the people here are so receptive; they come out to hear the music,” said Nick Colionne, “The people here are beautiful, everyone has been so nice to all the artists. I look forward to coming back next year.”
So the question remains, was the Seabreeze Jazz Festival a success? Well, that depends on the lens with which you view success. If you view success by sheer number of people, then the Seabreeze Jazz Festival was a smashing success. Pier Park had no parking, which is quite a statement being that Simon works hard on providing that service so close to the shore. People were everywhere; in the amphitheater, around the mall, in the streets—everywhere!
If you judge success by the festival’s economic impact, well, by that standard, the event was a success as well. I don’t know about you, but to me, the traffic on the beach felt awful “summer-y” as did the waits at restaurants and the lines in the shopping centers. Mind you, the Zap Pro Skim Jam and the UCA Cheerleading Camp aided in filling the beach, but the crowds seemed to stretch from one end of the beach to the other and that spells dollars for most the businesses on the beach.
So was this year’s Seabreeze Jazz Festival a success? Well, there’s one other way to view success. For me, the degree of the event’s success manifested itself in the two couples who danced on our beach until the stars came out. They decided on a vacation to Panama City Beach and, as the man said, it was the most fun they’ve ever had. That’s success.
Tip-of-the-hat to all the people involved in bringing the Seabreeze Jazz Festival to Panama City Beach. It was a blast. You guys did a great job.
I have to give a shout out to our good buddy Arlene Froeming. Thanks to her and her generosity in loaning me a sweet telephoto lens, we had the ability to produce some stunning close-ups. She does some freelance photography and can be found here.