Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jazz Takes a Holiday

When you think of jazz festivals, perhaps New Orleans, New York, or St. Louis jump to mind. But summer and the festival season are long gone in those places, not to return until next year. But in Clearwater, FL - from where I am writing to you today - they are gearing up for the 32nd annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday. For four days in mid-October musicians from all over the world, and from all genres of jazz, descend upon Clearwater and the greater Tampa Bay area.

Now I know that greater Tampa and jazz festival sound like they'd go together like peanut butter and codfish, but this free event has drawn such greats as Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente, Stephan Grappelli, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, The Neville Brothers, Branford Marsalis, Natalie Cole, George Benson, and many more. Beyond the great line-up, the setting is just spectacular. As the rest of the country is raking leaves and winterizing their homes, Clearwater enjoys daytime temperatures in the mid-eighties, and evenings in the mid-sixties. Just three miles long, it is an island bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the West and Tampa Bay to the East, with beaches Conde Nast Traveler calls some of the best in the country. Art Blakey, the great be-bop drummer, once said "jazz washes away the dust of every day life." Miles of pristine, white, sandy beaches with sunrises and sunsets over crystal clear waters don't hurt none either.

In fact, with the festival going on for four days, I am going to have a hard time squeezing in everything else I want to do in the area. For example, have you heard about that new movie Dolphin Tale? It's the story of a dolphin named Winter, and it stars Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr., and presumably a dolphin. I am sure it's absolutely terrible, but the dolphin that inspired the film, Winter, lives right here in Clearwater. She was found at 4-months old caught in a crab trap. After being taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, it was determined she would lose her tail. What in the wild would have been a death sentence, inspired a physician to spearhead the effort to construct a prosthetic tail for the marine mammal. I'm not making this up. It worked, and today Winter is the star of the show at the aquarium, where they also care for and exhibit other dolphins, sea turtles, otters, stingrays, sharks, and more. I can't wait to meet her, and secretly hope I run into Ashley Judd while I am there. I know, I know, but a guy can dream, can't he?

Then there's sailing on a 3-masted schooner with Classic Cruises, swimming with dolphins at Encounters With Dolphins, Murielle Winery (I know, peanut butter and codfish again, but trust me on this one), and the Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival. Every single day of the year, starting two hours before sundown, you will find crafters, entertainers, food, and fun for the whole family at the end of historic Pier 60. This free, daily event typically includes a spectacular sunset as well. This is all without ever leaving Clearwater. But just minutes across the bay is the greater Tampa area, which includes Adventure Island (Tampa's only outdoor water park), Busch Gardens, Florida Botanical Gardens, Museum of Science and Industry (with IMAX), the Salvador Dali Museum, and more golf that you can possibly have time for. I'm definitely going to need a Jazz Holiday.

I am staying at a timeshare rental at Chart House Suites, right in Clearwater. You can also find timeshare deals in nearby Belleair Beach, Crystal Beach, and Indian Shores. If you are hoping to hit the 2012 Jazz Holiday, I suggest starting your search well in advance, and signing up for posting alerts.

Well, I am off to Tampa's famous Ybor City neighbrohood, a.k.a. the Cigar Capital of the World. Since the late 1880s billions of cigars have been rolled in this ethnically diverse neighborhood. And while it went into a steep decline for several decades, it has seriously rebounded in the last twenty or so years. The entire downtown district is a National Historic Landmark, complete with a functioning trolley system. I am going to hit the Ybor City Museum and then score some stogies to take to the festival with me. I've got my eye on some Tampa Sweethearts, but I hear good things about the La Herencia De Cuba, too. Fortunately, depending on your perspective, they let you smoke them right there in the shop. I may end up with some of each, since I have a lot of "dust of every day life" I need to wash away.

No comments:

Post a Comment