The Miami Gardens Jazz in the Gardens music festival is more than just music and vendors — for those who attend, it’s about the friendships that are formed and the camaraderie among the 55,000 revelers that make the event fun.
Walking down any aisle of the concert, spontaneous group dances like the electric slide or the famous Soul Train line erupt. People come to have a good time with one another.
Lynn Johnson, 59, has been coming with her friends of over 20 years to the two-day festival, held outside SunLife Stadium, since its inception in 2005. She said she always sits in general admission because that’s where the party is.
Festival-goers have the option of five different levels of seating, starting with front-row seating that costs $350 for an advance purchase of two-day tickets.
For Johnson, the front-row seating is not her style.
“You can let your hair down, take your wig off, put the hats down,” said Johnson, a nurse from Highland County, Fla. “We do it all back here in general admission. We have a good time.”
Even comedian George Willborn, who appeared on stage with host Michael Baisden, joked that the people in general admission had brought grills to barbecue and were having a block party in the back.
Rosalyn Mitchell sat in the back with her best friend and said she enjoys the positive, fun atmosphere created by the people who attend.
“I think it’s a positive thing … being able to come out to a venue like this in the open, with a whole bunch of us out here…” said Mitchell, a South Miami resident.
With so many concert options in South Florida, people say they come back because Jazz in the Gardens offers a safe, friendly environment while watching some of their favorite acts.
People of all ages attend the event, from grandmothers to babies in strollers — the crowd spans across generational lines.
Jazz in the Gardens started as a purely jazz event in 2005. Suzan McDowell is the director for marketing and public relations for Jazz in the Gardens and has been there from the beginning. She said the event has grown before her eyes.
“It’s like a baby who went to bed one size and woke up a whole bigger baby,” said McDowell, who saw ticket sale increase to 55,000 this year.
The event that once gave away tickets now has thousands of guests anticipating the yearly event.
Although the event has grown up, the attendants are getting younger, thanks to acts like Ne-Yo and Monica. In the early days of the music festival, it was dubbed the “old folks” concert from some of the festival-goers who are under 30. They now come because they get to see some of their favorite music artists, but also because they get to see legends like Charlie Wilson perform.
Mark Wolff Jr., 29, and Gabriela Ferrer-Wolff, 24, a newlywed couple, cuddled on a blanket as they watched last-minute lineup addition Nicole Henry, who replaced jazz singer Rachelle Ferrell.
Mark, a music producer, said they were first-time attendees who were pleasantly surprised to see that the concert took place on the lawn and not inside the stadium.
Gabriela said the energy was friendly and sincere.
“I like how laid-back it is. You can walk around and get closer, and you can sit back and talk,” she said. “It’s a really chill event, so I like that a lot.”
For Nijama Coles, 35, the event is a calm, classy event. Coles, who was a first-time attendee, said that next year she will bring her daughter.
“I want her to see this and know that this is how you conduct yourself when you are out,” she said.