June 20--LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It's called Winterfest even though it's in the spring.
Such details aren't likely to bother the 20,000 people expected to turn out to the Premier Sports Complex in Lakewood Ranch on March 29-30 to see 26 hours of music from the likes of Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Cook of country supergroup Alabama, and area resident Rick Derringer.
"Edgar Winter will be playing with Rick Derringer," said Jim Chiaffredo, the Lakewood Ranch spokesman for Winterfest. "I guess that hasn't happened in a long time."
This year's festival will include 18 acts over t two days. As impressive as headliners Balin, Cook and Derringer -- best known for hits "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" and, with his early band the McCoys, "Hang On Sloopy" -- are they're just a teaser, Chiaffredo said.
Besides those headliners, announced so far include Bertie Higgins, who scored a soft rock hit with "Key Largo," country stalwart Billy Dean, 11-year-old guitar phenom Jake Castro and perennially popular locals the Billy Rice Band.
There's more to come, too.
"We're not going to talk about the other acts yet," he said. "We'll tell people about them gradually. We don't want to blow the buzz all at once."
He said the music lineup will eventually include some
thing to suit most tastes, including blues, rock, country and jazz.
Music lovers can get the latest news about Winterfest, including information about additions to the lineup, by going to lwrwinterfest.com and signing up for the festival newsletter.
Ticket prices haven't been determined, Ciaffredo said, but a one-day pass will be "less than a lot of these guys charge just to see just by themselves." Premium passes for tents and air-conditioned areas will also be available.
The festival will run from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. each day.
Besides music, Winterfest will include more than 50 vendors and a kids' area, so there will be plenty to do when people feel like taking a break from the music.
Winterfest officials predict about 20,000 people will attend each day.
"That's what we're set up for right now," Chiaffredo said. "But who knows? We have 140 acres so we can accommodate more than that, and there's parking for everybody, too."
It sounds like an ambitious plan for a new festival in a relatively low-key community like Lakewood Ranch, It's designed to be a destination event to draw people in from out of town to stay in local hotels and patronize local businesses.
Still, Chiaffredo said this year's Winterfest is only the beginning of something much grander.
"We're always trying to find new things for the area," he said. "We've done music festivals before, but nothing like this. We hope to make this as big as any music festival in the country, however long that takes."
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.
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