CLEARWATER — This year's Clearwater Jazz Holiday was a raucous mix of jazz, blues and folk, with headliners ranging from Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bonnie Raitt to the up-and-coming Avett Brothers.
However, it appears that roughly 25 percent fewer people attended this year, which was the first time in the festival's 33-year history that it has charged for admission.
Jazz Holiday typically draws about 40,000 music fans to Coachman Park over its four-day run, depending on the weather. The weather was fine this year, but the Clearwater Police Department's unofficial crowd estimate was 28,000 to 30,000 people for all four days.
Exact figures from ticket sales aren't available yet.
Bob Childress, president of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation, said the park seemed plenty full to him.
"The response to this year has been the most response that I've ever gotten to a Jazz Holiday. People are coming out of the woodwork, saying they can't believe at what level we took this event," he said. "Switching up the genres opened it up, revealing jazz to people who wouldn't ordinarily go."
The tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. The festival's organizers didn't come to this decision lightly. They had considered charging for admission for years, due to dwindling corporate sponsorships and grant money. They say selling tickets allows the festival to book better headliners.
In his review, Tampa Bay Times music critic Sean Daly called the admission fee for the closing night's rousing performance by the Avett Brothers a "bargain price."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.