By Sean Schrader
So many big events happen in Tampa Bay. In the past year, there’s been the Superbowl, the PGA Golf Tournament, and the Firestone Grand Prix to name a few. Watching these events can be thrilling because you get to see the Tampa Bay community front and center, serving as a destination for these events, while getting exposure from all over the world.
Events of that magnitude are exciting, but they don’t just happen. It takes a lot of planning, time and energy to see to it that they will be successful. The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is no exception, and especially after the many challenges people have endured throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 jazz festival gave an opportunity to enjoy euphonious music and celebrate togetherness.
I was fortunate to volunteer at their opening night on Thursday, which featured Kool and the Gang. As this was my first-time volunteering at the Jazz Holiday, I did not know what to expect. I had previously attended the Jazz Fest at Coachman Park, but as this was a totally new venue at the BayCare Ballpark, I felt more comfortable in knowing that this year’s version would be a new experience for everyone. Access to the ballpark was very seamless with parking near the St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus, allowing a short walk to the volunteer tent. Once I checked in, I was given a Jazz Fest shirt and a commemorative pin.
I arrived for the evening shift (6 to 10 p.m.), and once myself and fellow volunteers had been given the opportunity to change and grab a bite, we were escorted to our positions. As the venue for the Jazz Fest was different than in previous years, that also meant that seating arrangements were altered. Traditional seating was available in the ballpark stands, whereas VIP seating, which included access to food and drinks, was on the ballpark field. Initially, I served as an assistant to help VIP guests locate their table. Essentially, guest tickets provided info on table location on the field, and my role involved helping guests to their assigned seating.
After that I transferred to the food tent where I served pulled chicken. This turned out to be a fun but difficult job as I often had a hard time focusing because of all the other mouthwatering offerings such as macaroni and cheese and apple cobbler. Aside from the unique opportunity to help serve food, I got to connect with some other Jazz Holiday volunteers in the serving line.
It was so interesting to learn more about the massive number of volunteers which help make the event possible. It is all hands-on-deck with traditional volunteers, members of the Jazz Force and onsite staff participating in the event.
At 8 p.m., the food tent closed, and after helping in the disassembly of items I moved to the field to provide assistance. Coincidentally, I arrived just in time to hear Kool and the Gang. The band played some of their classic hits such as “Fresh”, “Ladies Night”, “Get Down on It”, all leading up to the grand finale of “Celebration.” I loved the performance and seeing guests dancing and up out of their seats. Hearing “Celebrate” helped me realize the unique challenge the Jazz Holiday faced by putting on an event after COVID-19 that provided such a distinctive, new setting.
While at USF pursuing my bachelor’s degree in business management, I have enjoyed working with professors who have helped me learn more about management in a conceptual way. But opportunities outside of the classroom such as internships, or participating behind the scenes at events like the Jazz Holiday, can give you the chance to apply what you have learned in the real world. As I reflect on this experience, I realize there are many outcomes from volunteering such as learning more about how an event can be successfully run while enjoying good food and music. I hope I can again volunteer at the Jazz Holiday next year.