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Clearwater Jazz Holiday attracts 40,000 fans despite rain and chill

CLEARWATER — Rain and chilly winds hurt attendance at this year's Clearwater Jazz Holiday, but the four-day event still attracted healthy crowds, with more than 40,000 fans attending.

On one night, Coachman Park was jammed beyond capacity.

Now that the music has died down and the last of the equipment is being hauled away, organizers are tallying results and beginning to plan for next year.

"Weather is always a factor," said Gary Hallas, the Jazz Holiday's consultant. "You can't do anything about that. It's an outdoor event."

The Jazz Holiday typically draws 45,000 to 55,000 fans over its four nights. Last year, amid competition from the Tampa Bay Rays playing in the American League Championship Series, about 40,000 people attended.

Clearwater police estimated the crowds in the park this year at 10,000 Thursday, "in the thousands" Friday, 13,000 Saturday and more than 10,000 Sunday.

Friday was the least-attended night because of rain, but headliner Chris Botti still managed to perform for more than an hour.

On Saturday night, the park reached maximum capacity, so authorities closed the gates for a short time until some fans left.

At some point, the city hopes to expand Coachman Park, Jazz Holiday's longtime venue.

It might demolish the Harborview Center as early as next year. If Clearwater can find the money, it could put parking on the Harborview site and turn Coachman Park's asphalt lot into green space, creating a "great lawn" for events on the waterfront.

It remains to be seen when that happens. In the meantime, jazz fans still have the sounds of Al Jarreau and the Neville Brothers ringing in their ears.

"Overall, the 30th anniversary was fantastic," Hallas said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday attracts 40,000 fans despite rain and chill 10/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 9:15pm]
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