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Organizer is jazzed over new beach show

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

After learning the Clearwater Jazz Holiday would not return this year to Clearwater Beach, a business owner gets into action and organizes a new event scheduled for June.

After finding out Clearwater Jazz Holiday wouldn't be returning to the beach in October, Lisa Chandler was bummed.

Thousands of people poured onto Clearwater Beach for the two-day festival to hear pianist David Benoit, guitarist Earl Klugh and drummer T.S. Monk. Many fans slept, ate and shopped on the beach as well.

"Economically, it was good for the beach," said Chandler, a volunteer for the Jazz Holiday and co-owner of Pier 60 Concessions, which sells hot dogs, drinks and various sundries on the beach.

Disappointment soon turned to action when the Clearwater native began organizing a bash the beach could call its own.

"I thought this was our opportunity to stake out our own event," Chandler said.

With the support of Sunsets at Pier 60 Society, a non-profit group that operates a daily festival on Pier 60 patterned after the famous sunset festival in Key West, Chandler got to work. She recruited sponsors, volunteers and food and beer vendors. She hired entertainers, a professional production company and security personnel, putting together a $42,000 budget.

The result is Sunsets' Summer Beach Fest 2000, which will debut on Clearwater Beach on June 9-11. The Orlando-based Landsharks Band will headline the free festival with a tribute to Jimmy Buffett.

"We'll never be able to afford the real Jimmy Buffett, so we'll take the next best thing. And that's the Landsharks," said Chandler, a board member of Sunsets at Pier 60 Society.

The band has a standing gig at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe at Universal Studios CityWalk.

Michael Bangos, whose family owns and operates Ann's Edgewater Motel on East Shore Drive, thinks the festival is a great idea. "I know it's hard work, but I think it will be worth it for everyone," he said.

Bangos' motel was one of many beach businesses that benefited from the Jazz Holiday being on the beach. "We had a bunch of walk-ins, where usually in October we're very slow," Bangos said.

In honor of the jazz event's 20th anniversary last year, organizers held concerts on Clearwater Beach as well as Coachman Park, traditional home of the annual jazz festival. But chairpersons said the event proved too taxing on volunteers and decided against bringing musicians to the beach this year.

Marlys Purnell, acting manager for the Aegean Sands Resort Motel on Gulfview Boulevard S, said the motel was under construction in October so business was slow.

"I think it's wonderful," she said of Sunsets' Summer Beach Fest 2000. "The more they bring out on the beach, the better it will be for everyone."

Craig West, a board member of Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce and Sunsets at Pier 60 Society, said, "You can't beat the atmosphere and ambience of the beach, and the Jazz Holiday highlighted that."

West said the Jazz Holiday's decision to not return to the beach this year may be a blessing in disguise.

"It gave us an opportunity to try something and take (Sunsets at Pier 60) to the next level," he said.

Chandler said she hopes the weekend event will showcase the daily festival, featuring music, arts and crafts and entertainers. "We want to draw attention to it and really get our name out there," she said.

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