Around 300 attended the first Jazz by the Bay event, enjoying sunny skies and balmy weather as they sat on beach chairs overlooking fabulous views on the grassy point at 58th Street S and Shore Boulevard, according to organizer Andrea Knettel.
Knettel, along with her husband Michael and musician Butch Thomas, all of Gulfport, formed a company called Gulfport City Limits to bring what they hope will be several music shows a year to the community, she said.
“We saw a need because Gulfport is all about the arts,” said Knettel, who is a registered nurse. “Music is part of the arts and it’s not as well represented here as we’d like, so we have started this company to start bringing it in.”
Her husband, who is a general contractor and former concert promoter, said music is an integral part of the arts that transcends all ages, but which has been somewhat overlooked in the city.
“I want to foster the musical part of Gulfport’s history,” he said.
Response from audience members was enthusiastic.
“I’m loving it,” Brady Johnson of St. Petersburg said as he stood listening to the Tomkats Jazz Orchestra. “It’s a real nice setting. And if they continue to do this, it’s going to turn into a real big thing.”
Ed and Anne Marie Fraley of St. Petersburg attended the event to celebrate Ed’s 60th birthday.
“I can’t believe there are not more people here,” Ed said as the couple relaxed in their beach chairs sipping beer. “They missed an unbelievable show.”
Organizers said they expected the first festival to be relatively small but are optimistic about the future.
“The first one is the start-up one to get things going,” Andrea Knettel said. “This will build.”
Kenttel said the next show was tentatively scheduled in March 2017 featuring Latin music.
The festival ran from 1 to 10 p.m., featuring a number of bands as well as sales of food and drink. Proceeds from the sale of water and alcoholic beverages went to benefit Gulfport Neighbors and the Gulfport Historical Society.