Lawn chairs dotted Frank Brown Park as people chatted and enjoyed the start of the Labor Day weekend.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — As usual, country music fans relaxed in the grass and listened to down-home tales of drinking and dating during Gulf Coast Jam on Friday.
The annual festival drew locals and tourists to the outdoor site at Frank Brown Park on the first day. While rain has been a nuisance in years past, for 2019 the weather was hot and dry hours after gates opened Friday.
Panama City resident Bobby Wilkerson has been coming for several years.
“The music is good. The food is good, just the camaraderie of everybody together,” Wilkerson said. “So far, so good.”
Lawn chairs dotted the park as people chatted and enjoyed the start of the Labor Day weekend. In addition to listening to music, attendees took pictures at the large Jim Bean displays, ordered food and drinks and ducked into an air-conditioned sports bar to escape the sun.
Melissa Gurliaccio, also a local, said entering the event went “nice and smooth.”
“It’s huge, especially right now after the storm,” Gurliaccio said when asked the impact on the local community, referencing Hurricane Michael, which hit surrounding areas nearly a year ago. “It’s huge for us to be able to get together and do something fun and relaxing and get our minds off what’s going on.”
Chad Murphy, who came down from Tennessee, has been before and appreciated the lack of rain Friday compared to previous years.
“It’s really laid-back, decent weather, beautiful place, good music,” Murphy said on what he likes about Gulf Coast Jam. “I like Jason Aldean. I’m ready to have a good time.”
Others, like performer Nora Collins, were in Panama City Beach for the first time. Collins, who is from Wisconsin and was one of the opening acts Friday, noted she wrote tunes while in Nashville.
“Thank you so much for having me,” Collins said between songs while American flags swayed above the stage. “I’m going to try some new music on you today.”
Jamestown Revival also played as the crowd continued trickling in during the start of the festival. Their hypnotic and earthy sound could be heard as people strolled up and claimed a spot on the ground.
“When I looked up all hell broke loose,” Jamestown Revival sang while performing the song “American Dream.”
Gulf Coast Jam continues Saturday and Sunday with Aldean and Kid Rock headlining.