Red-hot recording act Magic Giant capped Safety Harbor’s 100th birthday party with a rousing 90-minute set to close out the Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest and Games presented by Blake Real Estate on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.
The day began with a free yoga class under sun-drenched skies and Safety Harbor officials wearing giant bubbles, bumping into each other while playing soccer, and it concluded with red-hot recording act Magic Giant joining the mayor and city commissioners singing a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday to the city.
Yes, after months of discussion, debate and collaboration, the Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest and Games presented by Blake Real Estate fulfilled the role of a signature event to celebrate Safety Harbor’s 100th birthday and then some, providing 10 hours of free entertainment that was at times amusing, fun and downright awesome.
While some original components of the event had to be scrapped, including slicing the festival from two days to one, the final result featured games, arts and crafts booths, food trucks, a home brewing competition and plenty of live music and was roundly considered to be a smashing success.
“This was a very well-organized, well-run event,” local artist Ben Cardoso said from his seat near the stage.
Ideal event weather, a variety of food and drink options and hours of free live music combined to make the Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest at Safety Harbor’s Waterfront Park a rousing success, based on all accounts.
“(Organizers) Mercedes (Locke) and Heather (Conrad-Hildick) were great to do all this, to run things and keep everything going, all with a positive attitude. I can’t say enough good things about them and what they accomplished.”
For her part Locke deflected the praise to the centennial committee members and festival volunteers, among others.
Safety Harbor Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest and Games organizer Mercedes Locke.
“I am humbled by all the messages of thanks and congratulations I’ve been receiving from so many people about this event, but it really was not me at all,” Locke said via text on Monday. “It was a huge undertaking of a committee, volunteers from many of Safety Harbor’s organizations, musicians, a production team, vendors, a lot of hours, blood, sweat and maybe a few tears!”
“We wanted to celebrate Safety Harbor in a big way, and everybody involved should be really proud of their accomplishment.”
Ideal event weather contributed to the festival going off without a hitch at the city’s still-developing Waterfront Park, as festival attendees were able to leisurely stroll through the line of vendor booths while kids ran freely around the vast park grounds.
Games organizer Kim Ward said the participants all “had a great time and were great sports,” while the winner of the home-brew competition, Gary Sawtelle, thanked Safety Harbor’s Crooked Thumb Brewery for facilitating the contest between a dozen amateur brew crews.
Gary Sawtelle advertises his team’s entry in the home brew competition at the Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.
“I want to say thank you to the festival organizers and thanks to Crooked Thumb for making this possible,” Sawtelle said after his Safety Harbor Centennial IPA earned the most votes from samplers.
“They supported this team of my wife and two neighbors by suppling the bottles, the facility, and their expertise and time. For new brewers, this was great.”
There’s no doubt the food, drink and games were big draws for the event, but the music was undeniably the tie that bound the festival together, as the lineup comprised of local acts and national artists contributed to a party-like atmosphere befitting a centennial celebration.
Of the half-dozen performers, including homegrown product Mercy McCoy and fan favorites Ethan Parker and Joshua Reilly, none received a more raucous response than headliner Magic Giant.
As soon as the LA-based trio, named one of the ten new artists to watch by Rolling Stone earlier this year, hit the Waterfront Park stage, the energy level went way up, as the band played a spirited 90-minute set highlighted by a lot of arm waving and jumping around, wading into the crowd, even a marriage proposal.
Dunedin’s Danielle Gilliam meets Magic Giant as her mom, Donna, waits to take her photo after the show.
“What a performance,” Dunedin resident Donna Gilliam said as she and her daughter, Danielle, waited in a long line to take a selfie with the band after the show.
“That was high-energy!”
“I’ve been listening to them for a couple of months and I love it here in Safety Harbor, so I thought I’d come check them out,” Danielle Gilliam said.
When asked if she’d go see the group again, Danielle quickly responded, “Definitely!”
Of all the band’s hard-core and casual fans in attendance, Tara Playford and William Sanchez of St. Petersburg probably had the deepest connection to the group’s music.
Inspired by other Magic Giant concertgoers who used their live shows as a backdrop for a marriage proposal, Sanchez surprised his fiancé-to-be when he proposed to Playford in the middle of the set surrounded by band members Austin Bisnow, Zambricki Li and Brian Zaghi.
William Sanchez of St. Petersburg gets a kiss from fiance Tara Playford after Sanchez proposed to her in the middle of Magic Giant’s set at the Safety Harbor Centennial Folk N Fruit Festival on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.
After the show, the couple, who have been dating since July 2016, spoke about the memorable experience.
“I had been talking to the band’s manager through Facebook since August and asked if they would be willing to let us to do this,” Sanchez explained. “To my surprise, they responded right away and said, ‘yeah, let’s do it!'”
“They asked what song I wanted to use and I said either “Great Divide” or “Nothing Left” and he said, ‘let’s do both!'” he added.
Magic Giant members (l-r) Brian Zaghi, Austin Bisnow and Zambricki Li pose with William Sanchez and Tara Playford of St. Petersburg. Sanchez proposed to Playford during the band’s set at the Safety Harbor Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest on Nov. 18, 2017.
“It’s just been really incredible and really cool.”
As for Playford’s reaction to the unforgettable moment?
“I’m still in shock!” she said, adding, “of course I had to say yes!”
“He knew what would make me happy. That’s true love.”
After the crowd of admirers had dissipated and the band began breaking down their instruments, Magic Giant frontman Bisnow said those kind of personal connections to, and interactions with, their audience is what drives them.
“I feel like if we just want to play for ourselves we could stay in our bedroom,” the affable and energetic Washington, DC native told Safety Harbor Connect.
“The music is a vessel for connecting with people, and that’s what makes (playing) live different from the record. We tried to make the record as special as we could, but nothing is like live because of what the audience brings and the midpoint of where us and the audience combines and connects.”
Magic Giant frontman Austin Bisnow.
Bisnow, who has written for the likes of David Guetta and Big Time Rush and collaborated with John Legend and Adam Levine, among others, also praised the city after the band played its second show in town following this spring’s Safety Harbor Songfest gig.
“Everyone is so open and open-hearted and ready to connect,” he said. “It’s idyllic in a lot of ways. It’s got great air and a beautiful sea. It’s hard to imagine it’s 15 minutes away from the airport.”
When asked if he planned to play here again, Bisnow was emphatic.
“I hope so! I would love to keep coming back,” he said.
Magic Giant band members hoist Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub after their set.
“I’d love to do like a matinee here, throw a carnival or something like that, because it’s so family friendly. It’s definitely a special place.”
After the city’s yearlong centennial celebration came to a rousing conclusion, Mayor Ayoub reflected on the signature event.
“What an amazing day and night,” Ayoub said soon after the grand finale.
“Great people, awesome bands and Magic Giant really capped off the evening.”
“Hats off to all the festival contributors, the people who came out, the vendors, the bands,” he added. “It was an awesome way to celebrate the city’s centennial!”
Enjoy this photo gallery from the Safety Harbor Centennial Folk N Fruit Fest and Games presented by Blake Real Estate:
Proceeds from the Centennial Folk’n’Fruit Festival went to the following non-profit organizations: Kiwanis, Mattie Williams Center, Paddle For Kids, Paint Your Heart Out, Primavera, SHAMc, Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History, Safety Harbor Library Foundation