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DON'T TAKE FUN OUT OF JAZZ HOLIDAY

Fewer folks take in Jazz Holiday; 40,000 made it, story, Oct. 23

It wasn't sporting events that kept us away from the Jazz Holiday. My husband and I have attended the Jazz Holiday for 20 years. As a matter of fact, when you look at past St. Petersburg Times aerial pictures, the huge tarp on the ground in front of the sound tower was there every year for 15 years in a row, because it was my husband who at 5 a.m. on Thursday mornings staked that tarp on the ground until the end of the holiday on Sunday.

Every year we caught up with the same group of friends. We all brought our picnic basket and a bottle of wine. The cops never once had problems with our group.

Then the gestapo stopped the food, water bottles, wine, etc. When they blocked off the best part of the field for the VIP section, we went there. Last year my husband's company paid to be a sponsor, we put up with inferior food (if any was left at all when we got there early), and cheap wine. The seats were hard, uncomfortable and packed in so close together you really felt like a sardine. The worst was the overzealous, power hungry volunteers who have a desire to be a cop - that's sad, with all the great volunteers a handful give them such a bad name.

It simply was no longer the Jazz Holiday we have been so accustomed to.

They claim the Jazz Holiday is free, which is so far from the truth. Even water costs. I understand the need for vendors and they really have improved on the quality. Do they really think in today's fast-paced society the majority of people would take the time to pack a basket and lug it to the park, along with chairs, blankets, etc?

If they want the attendance back up, allow food, water and wine to be brought in, get rid of the VIP section and charge $10 for admission, $40 for the entire weekend.

Lyndee Dolan, Dunedin

VIP area spoils view for others

We are writing to inform you of a serious incident that occurred on opening night of the Jazz Holiday. We arrived at Coachman Park at 5 p.m. to attempt to gain a reasonable view of the stage and were able to situate ourselves right along the dividing rail that separated the VIP hospitality area from the general audience, on the west side of the stage. This area was adjacent to a tent set-up offering a raffle for a cruise.

We initially had a very nice view of the stage from our folding chairs. The VIP area on the other side of the dividing rail had round tables that seated 8 to 10 people and higher bar-type tables where people could stand and lean.

More people began to arrive in the hospitality area as the performances began, resulting in people standing around the high tables and, of course, blocking out the view of the stage and performers. Several people began to ask the VIPs if they could please sit in a chair or even move the high table to the back of the VIP section. They chose to not be reasonable (beer, you think?) and informed us all that they had paid $200 and it was our problem that we were on the other side of the rail. A VIP woman threw a cup through the rail, covering a woman in beer.

I located a police officer. He did nothing but talk to the VIPs and then informed the general audience that VIPs had paid to get into this area and there was nothing they could do. Then he told one of the general audience patrons that if she continued complaining, he "would haul her out of here." Another "free" patron jumped the dividing gate in anger to attempt to persuade the VIPs to resolve the problem. This resulted in the police officers removing him from the park.

This had the potential to be a very serious incident between VIPs and the general audience. One suggestion may be that the 2009 festival committee rethink the table setup for the VIP area and that some expectations of behavior at a performing arts venue be established and enforced. The message given to people at the event by event security, Clearwater police officers and the VIP patrons was that if you have enough money to buy your way into the VIP section, you have the right to do and say whatever you want, even at the expense of others, and if you are a non-paying participant, you have no right to be able to enjoy the festival.

If money is now an issue, maybe the VIP concept should be aborted and instead, a nominal fee be charged to attend the event. It would eliminate the current "caste system" that is clearly being promoted by the event planners and employed law enforcement.

Anita and Keith Davis, Safety Harbor

Re: The national anthem and baseball

Anthem doesn't need a change

With each of the presidential candidates crying for "change," there are certain things that should not be changed. I'm talking about the national anthem. The performance by the Backstreet Boys at Game 1 of the World Series was a travesty! Please don't try to change the American flag, baseball or mom's recipe for apple pie. Our national song needs to be left as is, just as it was written and sounds.

Bill Coleman, Dunedin

YOUR VOICE COUNTS

You may submit a letter to the editor for possible publication through our Web site at www.tampabay.com/letters, or by faxing it to (727) 445-4119, or by mailing it to Letters, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. You must include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

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