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Jazz in the Gardens draws thousands from South Florida, country

Hotel industry capitalizes on out of towners

Carla St.Louis | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.
A PACKED HOUSE: Over 50,000 plus attend “Jazz In The Gardens” festival in Miami Gardens, Florida. Antonio Thompson

Thousands of music lovers from South Florida and the country packed the grounds of Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens this past weekend.

They came to dance and sway to the soulful, relaxing sounds of top recording artists while feasting on various foods during the 9th annual Jazz in the Gardens.

Spectators came from all over the country, from Atlanta to New York traveling hundreds of miles to attend one of the largest predominately black music festivals in the Southeast.

They stayed in area hotels pumping thousands of dollars into Miami Gardens' local economy as they made Jazz in the Gardens a festive weekend

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It’s a family affair here at “Jazz In The Gardens”

retreat competing for hotels against college students and northerners during a busy spring break weekend.

Norma Jean Edwards, 50, of Palm Coast attended with her friend and bunked at the Universal Palms Hotel in Ft.Lauderdale located conveniently a few minutes away from the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. The hotel gave the women 20 percent off of their room and upgraded their suite once they revealed they were in town for Jazz in the Gardens.

Music lovers were treated to a stellar lineup of recording artists including Trey Songs, Jamie Foxx, Kelly Rowland, Anthony Hamilton, jazz artist Boney James and Frankie Beverly and The Maze.

“This is my second time attending,” said Edwards who kept her budget for the venue at $1,000. “Last year I had so much fun, I decided to do it again.”

Lovely Ivey, 30, from Atlanta, GA and her party of five were not so lucky when it came to accommodations.

Ivey estimates her and her friends spent an average of $3,000 per person on Jazz in the Gardens, including airfare, room and boarding, dining and shopping.

The women stayed at the Trump Hotel in South Beach and received no discount despite their large group.

Her sister, Brielle Monay, 30 who was also part of her entourage, said Jazz in the Gardens was a supplement part of their trip. “Its my sister, Lovely’s birthday so we’re in town celebrating,” said Monay.

“We ate at restaurants in South Beach and we’re planning on partying at King of Diamonds Gentlemen’s Club.”

At the festival, individuals waited in long lines to munch on a variety of exotic foods and beverages, from grilled crab to barbecue ribs. The wait was at nearly two hours long for Keith Reed's Catering, where hungry parkgoers snatched up the popular conch salad elaborately presented in a carved out pineapple bowl.

Some tourists at the festival found booking affordable hotel accommodations a challenge as they competed with budget-minded college students.

One of them, Keshia Walker, 43, of Atlanta, GA stayed at the Marriott in South Beach without a reduced rate, but said her experience was worth it. “They blamed it on the Spring Breakers,” Walker said.

“Once its all said and done, I’ll have spent $2,000 for Jazz in the Gardens and that’s including car rental, airfare and hotel for Thursday through Monday.”

Willion Etienne, 25, of Brooklyn, New York took an alternative route, choosing to stay with a friend.

Etienne's plan saved him $500, giving him additional money to spend at the festival.