Bahamians factor high among the 40 percent of Caribbean visitors at JITG
Of the thousands of patrons at the annual Jazz In The Gardens (JITG) music festival, 40 percent of the concert goers are from out of town, according to Connie Kinnard, vice president of multicultural tourism and development at the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau.
And according to City of Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, at a press conference prior to the 14th annual City of Miami Gardens concert, they have a huge market in the Caribbean.
“Right now, we have a huge market in The Bahamas and Jamaica,” said Gilbert, who said that, looking forward, the concert event is going to continue to reinvent itself to be something that brings people to the City of Miami Gardens.
“We became a city in 2003, but we’ve been a concert for 14 years now. It will invent itself to continue to reintroduce Miami Gardens to the entire world. We will reinvent ourselves in any way necessary to continue to be that thing for the City of Miami Gardens,” said Gilbert.
With a lineup featuring the likes of Lionel Richie, Stephanie Mills and the O’Jays, many Bahamians made it a point to make their way to the South Florida event.
Richie was the draw for Carvill Wallace, who attended his fifth JITG concert; he said he would do it again, as it’s definitely worth the money he spends, despite any disappointment he may have had.
“Bobby Brown was the biggest disappointment. I had never seen him live. [I] always wanted to see him live, and I was expecting a show, and he was just a big letdown,” said Wallace.
Lionel Haven attended the concert for the first time with a group of friends for a boys’ weekend getaway. He said he was most interested in seeing Mills, the O’Jays and Richie.
“A fantastic experience. It’s certainly one of the most organized events that I’ve ever attended. I was most interested in Stephanie Mills, the O’Jays and Lionel Richie. Stephanie Mills was definitely an absolute treat and worth every penny. The O’Jays have been performing for 60 years, and can still do it like it was done the first time they ever did it, so that was amazing. Lionel Richie was very good. I was a bit disappointed with Brandy – not quite what I expected. A couple of the other artists were good. The whole Doug E. Fresh deal was nice – not me, but it was pretty good,” he said.
Haven said he is definitely interested in a repeat visit to JITG in the future.
His friend, Devroy Williams, who too had his first JITG experience over the weekend, also said it was wonderful and that he loved it.
“Lionel Richie was number one for me, then Stephanie Mills and then the O’Jays. Stephanie Mills was surprising for me – surprising that she still had it. Hell yes, I would go back,” he said.
Philip Rolle, a JITG veteran, attended his 10th music festival this year.
Rolle said: “Everyone wanted to see Lionel Richie and Lionel Richie impressed me. The O’Jays, I was very impressed with them as well. Brandy, I was not impressed with her at all.”
Rolle says he continues to attend the festival annually because he likes the atmosphere.
“… A lot of folks come to the event, but don’t even listen to the music, they’re just socializing in the back, so it’s about getting together and meeting your friends for another year,” he said.
Rolle, who attends with his wife, Denise, said they saw the same group of people from last year’s again, in their row this year.
“Coincidentally we met a lot of Bahamians who are living here. I met one of my classmates… she was living over here for the last 30 years, and I graduated Government High School 38 years ago, and she said she’s been living here for 30 years and I was so happy to see her. So, it’s almost like a homecoming. And of course, there are a lot of Bahamians living here that come to socialize with the Bahamians that are coming over.”
Dr. Kay Bain, another 10-year veteran, said for her it’s not about which acts are booked every year, but the JITG experience, which she described as “awesome”.
“It’s well-planned,” she said. “I love the energy. I love the people. I love the music. For Saturday, I think it was Stephanie Mills. For Sunday I think it was the O’Jays and Lionel Richie.”
She said was surprised by Blackstreet.
“Jazz In The Gardens is a must-do. It’s just so easy. You block out your calendar in March for the event and make it an experience,” said Bain.
Andrea Rolle, who attended for the fourth year, said she was attracted to attend by Stephanie Mills and Lionel Richie.
“I think JITG is a wonderful experience because you get to meet new people; you go, you sit and meet people in the row, and they’re so friendly and everyone’s talking and having fun. It’s just really nice. And I think others should try it just once,” she said.
But she had a few disappointments, like others.
“Bobby Brown… I think he needs some help. And Brandy, I think she was okay, but she was maybe just a little perturbed by the crowd, because they didn’t give her the reaction she was expecting; but I think she’s still there.”