The Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival dominated the weekend with thousands in attendance that enjoyed rockin music, awesome food and an atmosphere that was not only well organized, but also a blast. The promoters’ hard work and dedication definitely shined as beaming people all weekend told us how much better it seemed this year compared to years past.
In years past, the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival was named the Indian Summer Music Festival and was run by the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. Last year a local event planning group was developed to continue the tradition of the event forward and organized, advertised and carried out the event within 90 days. Talking to Jack Bishop the other night, one of the promoters, he was telling me that they hit the ground running right after last years event to start planning for this years, “It really takes about a year to get something like this done. Friday this year was about double what Friday last year was.”
Planning an event of this size takes a lot of work and sleepless nights. But, this year wasn’t as challenging to get the vendors to come, “We were technically ‘sold-out’ two weeks ago of vendor spaces,” said Jeanne Ryan, one of the promoters handling the vendor coordination, “not only did we offer very affordable vendor spots, the economy has vendors hungry for huge events like this, and the long weekend makes this festival very attractive because we have two very full days.” There is a lot of money and energy that goes into making something of this size happen.
Different this year from last were tons of ways to save money and still enjoy the festivities, including admitting kids 12 and under for free, free bouncy house village, tons of stuff for the kids dubbed “family-fun days”, daytime-only tickets, daytime-only all-you-can-ride midway tickets, and free wine tasting. I talked to tons of people over the weekend and all agreed the festival organization and the bundled value this year was great and the huge attendance was evidence of many others thinking the same. Of course, cult-classic Styx helped too.
Friday evening Julianne Hough lit up the stage with her highly energetic and colorful performance, and she was good, real good. It was very evident that she was a great performer and the audience loved her.
Saturday night was the title act, Styx rocked, other than the fact that their grouchy production manager literally ripped me a new one for just standing around 5 hours before going on. Talking to a guitar tech back-stage he was explaining to me that their whole act is highly mechanized right down to each chord. There was only one pedal on stage for Tommy Shaw for when he wanted to do his wah-wah pedal. All the rest of the sound changes were manipulated on the fly, back-stage by their staff. The tech was telling me that everything is run on a tight schedule with their on stage performance to begin sharply at 9 pm and at 10:40 they begin breaking down the equipment and loading the trucks. He said by 5 am the next morning he’d be back with his family in Arizona. I’m sure life on the road is tough, especially with 100 shows a year.
I have no idea how many people were there Saturday, but I will say that the crowd was densely packed all the way past the sound and light scaffolding, nearly to the vendor tents. There was definitely way more people this year than last.
All in all there were just under 100 food and merchandise vendors participating in the event. Most of who I talked to was pleased with their attendance and sales. With most of the major restaurants in the area and many from out of town, all the food we had was phenomenal, and that’s saying something considering usually I don’t get good food at events like these. I felt myself continually craving more fish or shrimp. Other vendors included locals such as the ladies that sell small painted surf-boards in Pier Park, painted piggy banks, cool hand-made jewelry and other shops and restaurants that help define our area.
Sunday was a huge family day with tons of people enjoying the Emerald Coast Cruizin Sneak-peek Car Show and Beach Bouncers Bounce Village. The title act Sunday was Grand Funk Railroad and although the crowds were still creeping in at 7:30 when they started playing, the audience was full back past the sound and light scaffolding and the VIP area was full to the brim.
Talking to Bishop, he was telling me that he was optimistic that the final turnout this year will be better than last year, but declined (rightfully so) to give me some numbers to chew on, stating that they know some finals in the weeks to come. Last year after it was all said and done, the event ended up costing the promoters around $10,000 of their own money, hopefully this year they’ll turn a profit so it makes sense for them to keep putting it on. I think they’ve done a great job in pulling something this huge together and comments from many of you and others that we talked to over the weekend seem to agree. Great work guys.
Oh, and I wanted to give some props to ProTech Services who seem to be everywhere when it comes to sound and light, but these guys really make an event like this come together.