Festive Weekend under Way with Events across First Coast; Shrimp Festival, Jazz Music, Boat Race and Folk Culture Vie for Attention

Article excerpt

Byline: Roger Bull, The Times-Union

About the time the pirates land in Fernandina Beach tonight, the Count Basie Orchestra will be in full swing at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville. Over at the Ritz Theatre, Marcus Roberts will be pulling the last notes from his piano. And Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be winding up at The Jacksonville Landing.

Spring weekends are always busy, but this weekend will have more than most when two of the biggest festivals go head to head.

The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in Fernandina Beach, which usually draws 100,000 to 125,000 people, started Thursday night. And so did the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, which will be spread out over several venues in the city. You've also got the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival in St. Augustine, and the Mug Race on the St. Johns River, but that usually draws more boats than spectators, anyway.

The shrimp and jazz festivals are the big ones.

The jazz festival was held for years in the fall. After a two-year absence, it was revived by the city last year and moved to mid-April. This year, it was moved back -- to the same weekend that the shrimp festival has been held for 41 years.

And Sandy Price, executive director of the shrimp festival, is certainly aware that they were there first.

"We were concerned that they would place it on the weekend of our annual event," Price said. "And they did. But what can you do? I want to be tactful here. I guess you could say there was a bit of wonder that it was the same weekend.

"We hope that people spend a day at each festival," she said. "Or they can spend both days with us."

Theresa O'Donnell Price, chief of special events for Jacksonville, said she was aware of the shrimp festival when the city was deciding on a date for the jazz festival.

"There's so many things going on," she said, "To find a weekend that's standalone is impossible. Maybe 20 years ago it was possible, but not now. And that's a good thing.

"You also have to look at the fact that the shrimp and jazz festivals are both multi-day festivals. If you want to go to jazz one day and shrimp one day, you can. But there are people who go to the shrimp festival because they always go to the shrimp festival. …