LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch has been building its reputation as a master-planned community since its inception in the mid-1990s.
Now, the company is putting its stamp on yet another industry: entertainment.
SMR announced last week it will host the Winterfest Music Festival, a two-day music event featuring national and local musical acts, March 29 and March 30, at the Premier Sports Campus.
“The intent is to grow it over the next however many years it takes,” Winterfest spokesperson Jim Chiaffredo said. “We’re hoping it (becomes) one of the largest musical festivals in the United States.”
Chiaffredo said acts already on the lineup include Country Music Hall of Fame member Jeff Cook, founder of the country group, Alabama; two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Marty Balin, of Jefferson Airplane; classic-rock artist Rick Derringer; soft-rock singer Bertie Higgins; country musician Billy Dean; and local favorites, the Billy Rice Band and youth guitarist Jake Castro.
Organizers are working to secure more national acts in the coming months, for a total of 18 shows representing multiple musical genres, including rock, blues, swamp music and more.
Festival prices have not yet been released, but Chiaffredo said patrons will be able to buy passes either for one or two days of concerts. VIP tickets, which will include reserved seating, food, drink, upgraded bathroom facilities and air-conditioned space, also will be available.
One main stage, flanked on either side by jumbotrons, will give patrons quality viewing, regardless of where they set up their chairs and blankets for the family-friendly concerts.
“We’re trying to provide new things for the area to draw attention to our community,” Chiaffredo said. “We feel through music and entertainment, we can provide that.”
Organizers are readying to accommodate up to 20,000 people on Premier’s campus.
SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen has said the company is committed to creating an “entertainment hub” in Lakewood Ranch, even after plans for a hockey arena and a bowling alley failed. Both were slated for property off what is now called Rangeland Parkway.
Chiaffredo said the Winterfest event could be a stepping stone toward fulfilling that vision for entertainment in the East County.
Premier is being used for the first-time event, because it has plenty of land, and infrastructure already exists on the site, he said.
For more information on Winterfest, or to sign up for updates as new acts are signed for the festival, visit lwrwinterfest.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at email@example.com.
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