The Players Championship, whose blue skies and green grass are being broadcast around the world, is certainly one of the biggest, most important events in Northeast Florida.
But it has rivals for that honor, one old and one new. At least that’s what some people around town told us after we asked them: What is the area’s signature event? What event is synonymous with this northeast corner of Florida? Responses were all over the place which, as a couple of them noted, is a good thing.
Coppola Public Relations
The Players is a strong contender, but the champ is still the Florida-Georgia game. “A significant event has to have a tradition. … Look at the history of Florida-Georgia, how hard the city fights to keep the event here, what the economic impact is, how it’s become almost a weeklong event — and even though we add seats it’s always sold out.”
Watch for One Spark, too: “That has a lot of value for the city. We’re not just a place to drink beer and watch football, or drink beer and watch The Players. Though at One Spark you can drink beer — craft beer — and eat from food trucks. And it certainly showcases downtown.”
Talent booker for 1904 Music Hall and a founder of The Elbow, a group of downtown entertainment venues
“Monster Jam?” That was his first response, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, via Facebook. “Let me think about it. That’s a toughie. Florida-Georgia is what I think introduces the most people to Jacksonville overall. I’d love to attribute it to something involved in music but I really can’t.”
Freelance writer, entertainment blogger at TheSpecktator.com
For the city of Jacksonville, it’s Florida-Georgia. For the region as a whole, it’s The Players.
For the future, it’s “One Spark for sure.” She attended Austin’s South By Southwest festival before it got huge, and sees that possibility with One Spark. Then there’s this: “All the attention it brought to Jacksonville, and it made Jacksonville look so progressive — it made us look good, fun and positive. It’s just so original.”
THERESA O’DONNELL PRICE
Director of major events at the University of North Florida, past special events director for city of Jacksonville
The Players definitely rules — this week, at least. But what about other college football games, the Jazz Festival, the up-and-coming One Spark? “And of course the Jaguars. To be one of the few markets in the country that has an NFL team? Absolutely.”
But she has a hard time picking just one signature event. That’s a good sign, though: She’s a native of the city, and has seen more and more happening here. How can you narrow it down to just one? “The bar has been raised on events.”
Corporate communications manager at Visit Jacksonville
He has a hard time picking one event, but says that in Jacksonville itself, Florida-Georgia attracts about 100,000 people. Many out-of-towners are among the 100,000 who come to the Jazz Festival. The Gator Bowl varies, depending on the teams. About 51,000 of the estimated 260,000 people who came to One Spark were from outside the area.
The Players, of course, is set outside Jacksonville, but it’s a big deal — the Players said attendance last year was 173,946. And half of those visitors are from outside the area.
Founder of World Arts Film Festival (May 15-17)
“I guess World Arts Film Festival would be my first choice.” She laughed. “It’s the only thing I spend time thinking about.”
No, seriously: It’s events such as that, all over town, that are defining the area, rather than a handful of big splashy occasions. “I like the sort of micro-events that are happening, like a craft beer festival or an eco-fest and then all these sorts of causes, focuses, interests. I love it.”
Executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
Watch out for One Spark, but it has a long way to go before catching up with the clout of The Players.
He likes that TV broadcasts now show the city skyline and mention Jacksonville, even though the event’s one county south. “They’re really making an extra effort to highlight that it’s us.”
A founder of metrojacksonville.com, downtown advocate
For the area, it’s The Players. For Jacksonville it’s already One Spark — “definitely.” “There’s the right combination of money and creativity and cutting-edgeness. No city has those three things in the same place very often, and when you have that, good things happen.”
There’s a buzz about it, here and elsewhere. “They’ve been unself-consciously promoting it, all across the country.”
Matt Soergel: (904) 359-4082