By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer
The opening strains of Jazz on the Islands were sweet, according to Manatee County tourism officials.
"I think you’ve got a great initial event here," said Ed Chiles, a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, who operates three restaurants on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. "August has been the best ever."
The transformation of the two keys into "jazzy little islands" for the month of August was designed to attract primarily German visitors during a traditionally slow season.
The theme, "Time to take it down a notch and up a beat," was marketed on the Internet and on JazzRadio Berlin, which provided a German DJ to broadcast a program from one of Chiles’ restaurants.
Trolley passengers were treated to live solo jazz performances during their rides from hotels to restaurants, which were given stipends from county tourism funds to hire jazz musicians during the month.
"I think this has really been effective," said TDC member and Island hotelier David Teitelbaum, who enjoyed 95 percent occupancy at the Tortuga Inn in August. Council member and Island hotelier and restaurateur Barbara Rodocker said business was up at both the Sun House restaurant and at BridgeWalk in Bradenton Beach.
"I’d like to see it stay," she said.
TDC member Sandy Haas-Martens said she noticed several German-speaking customers in Publix, and Chiles said he saw more German and English patrons during August than usual at his restaurants.
That could also be due to the favorable exchange rates of the euro against the dollar, said Haley’s Motel owner Sabine Muesil-Buehler, who said that she did not have any guests check in due to the promotion.
In fact, she said, she heard of a couple who cut short their stay at another hotel because all they heard on the Island was Jimmy Buffet, not jazz.
Much was learned from the first-time effort, said Larry White, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Next year, there will be no outdoor concert in August, he said – the weather was sweltering at the early evening Nils concert at the Crosley Estate, and even the water taxi ride from Bradenton Beach across the bay to the estate was hot.
The focus of next year’s event also may be narrowed to Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, given the event’s name. Other venues in Manatee County, including the Crosley Estate, were included in the promotions for the event this year.
"I think it should be more concentrated on the islands," TDC Chairman Joe McClash said.
"If we’re going to call it ‘Jazz on the Islands,’ it should be on the islands," Rodocker agreed.
Overall, the promotion was a success, White said.
"It has established a presence of a different sort to pair jazz with Manatee County."