News Column

Gulf Coast Jam heats up

August 31, 2014

By Amanda Banks, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Aug. 31--PANAMA CITY BEACH -- Vendors lined the field at Frank Brown Park on Saturday, advertising merchandise and giveaways as country music fans at the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam milled about and staked out seats to hear Laura Bell Bundy, Casey James, Lonestar, Big and Rich and Dierks Bentley.

Event promoter Dave Trepanier estimated 14,000 people showed up Friday night to hear headliner Carrie Underwood. He expected just as many, if not more, Saturday.

"We're expecting the same tonight, and tomorrow night's going to be huge with Blake Shelton," he said.

Trepanier hoped the lure of Shelton and lower ticket prices today would attract about 20,000.

Tickets also were already on sale for next year's Gulf Coast Jam.

"We've done it two years now. People know to expect we're going to have great talent," Trepanier said.

The Arnold High School Blue Thunder Marching Band took advantage of a volunteer opportunity at the festival. Parent volunteers with the band estimated 30 students were on hand to work with Mr. Trash LLC and accrue volunteer hours needed for scholarships and honors programs.

"We usually work the jazz festival and we did the blues festival. They get paid a little money and they get volunteer hours, and they get to go to the concert," parent volunteer Linda Kelley said.

Some of Saturday's fans were locals such as Debbie Fleetwood and Patrick Bay, an engaged couple recently transplanted from Indiana. Fleetwood said they heard about the festival on the radio and decided to check it out. They said they were looking forward to "relaxing, just enjoying the music."

"Blake Shelton's my favorite," Fleetwood said.

Kendra Nicholas, who lives in Tennessee and owns a condo in Panama City Beach, said she heard about the festival during a visit to the area. She and her daughter, Audrey Hartline, came down for the weekend.

"In Chattanooga, we have a thing called Riverbend Festival that's like nine days, but usually they don't have anybody that's still on the scene," Nicholas said.

The festival even attracted out-of-town vendors. Hicktown Couture, a small independent business, came from Phoenix to sell its wares and see "local Arizona boy" Dierks Bentley.

"We're hoping for a lot of business. We expect a lot of good people to come through here," Hicktown Couture owner Lawrence Scott said.


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Source: News Herald (Panama City, FL)

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