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“So, hey…. do you have any extra tickets to Jazz in the Gardens?” Then… a big smile, maybe a wink.
That was my life 30 days ago, right before the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens which popped off on March 16th & 17th, 2013. This year’s festival featured Earth Wind & Fire, Ne-Yo, Charlie Wilson, New Edition, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Fantasia, Monica, Najee, Mary Mary and the last minute addition of Nicole Henry who replaced a sick Rachelle Farrell.
As show date neared every member of the Jazz in the Gardens team got the “free ticket” question every day, all day. It’s our most popular time of the year. The time when folk we didn’t even know knew us, know us. They get bold enough to ask for free tickets. This is how it is when you’ve built one of the fastest growing festivals in America. It’s always prettier on the outside than it is on the inside. And that’s how we like it.
Jazz in the Gardens, the just 10-year old City of Miami Gardens’ signature event, has grown up over the past eight years since birth, with lots of mommies, daddies, aunties and uncles. And from its very humble beginnings in 2006 of just under 2,000 attendees to the 63,000 that strolled through gates in 2013, Jazz in the Gardens has come of age. Our child has grown up.
It takes nine months to have a full term baby. From conception to delivery it’s typically 40 weeks of “gestation”, a relatively small word for all that goes into the baking of a baby making cake. The “birthing” of a festival comes with the same ups and downs, joy, pain, elation, concentration, nurturing and focus on the end product. It’s a whole heap of work and anyone in the event business will get the baby = festival analogy. Planning and executing an event of such magnitude takes the right team, real commitment, dependable resources, so much patience, weather worn expertise and oodles and oodles of heart.
I was on the Jazz in the Gardens team from the very beginning, when it was struggling to survive; back when it was just a bold vision of the City of Miami Gardens Mayor & City Council. Fast forward to 2013, by all accounts Jazz in the Gardens has enjoyed unprecedented growth, surprising seasoned event professionals with its influence.
It’s gone from just a “you can’t do that” idea to hosting, in previous years, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Gladys Knight, Boys II Men, Kenny G , Robin Thicke, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Common, Patti LaBelle, The Isley Brothers, The O’Jays, En Vogue, India.Arie, Boney James, Nancy Wilson, Sergio Mendes, Wyclef, and many, many more superstars. Its risen from begging vendors to drag their stuff out to coveted national sponsor footprints like the ultra-hip uber folksy Volkswagen brand, clamoring to reach the lucrative African-American adult consumer.
I applaud the City of Miami Gardens. It is after all, a project green lighted every year by a strong city council that understands the power the Jazz in the Gardens brand is building for the largest black city in the State of Florida. A relatively young city of 110,000 residents that put it on the line for a collective vision. Think about it….. you’re gonna use our tax dollars to fund a jazz festival? Really? Then the festival comes around and it’s being covered by enthusiastic media from Los Angeles to Germany to New York to Suriname to the Bahamas. Better yet, it’s being attended by tens of thousands from Chicago, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, NYC, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Liberty City and most proudly, the residents of the City of Miami Gardens. The brand footprint is worth tens of millions of dollars, it’s made the city famous.