Since 1982, Tropical Heatwave has been a rite of spring for fans of eclectic music. Once just a Cuban Club event, Tropical Heatwave now spreads all over Ybor City, presenting an incredible lineup of diverse entertainment with more than 60 bands on multiple stages. . The event has not only become one that brings all of Ybor City alive with great music and parties, it has also become a near perfect example of the public radio-local community/business partnership that is now emulated in other markets throughout the country. This year’s two-day event will include several venues located on Ybor City’s main drag, 7th Avenue, with stages in several historic locations and enclosed parking lots – including the historic Centennial Park.
The main criteria used for booking bands/artists for Tropical Heatwave has always been musical excellence, strong visual appeal, fun, and high energy. Each year, attendees look forward to not just a series of great performances, but also expect a fun and collective way to discover new artists who may have been playing in this area for the first time. Each year, there are as many new artists to be discovered as there are familiar, chart-topping performers. In addition to several national acts that may have already “topped the charts” and have built a huge fan-base, Tropical Heatwave is a showcase for great local and regional talent. WMNF deliberately handpicks great bands that are ready to compete for audiences with the nationally known acts. Festival planners get a thrill to see both local bands and their fans to rise to the occasion, providing top performances at Tropical Heatwave.
Heatwave provides more than ten competing stages for live music fans, ensuring that each person has multiple choices to create their own unique experience. Some people hang out at one or two stages where they know some of their favorite bands are playing. Others try to challenge themselves to keep moving and see as many bands as possible. Some just go with the flow. Each year, in addition to being an annual reunion for many, the post festival comments have always included the phrase “this was one of the best musical experiences of my life.”
Tropical Heatwave is not just great music; it is a true community street festival. In past years activities on 9th Avenue with its aroma of delicious, multi-ethnic foods, arts and crafts vendors, and community activism has been central to the success of the event. The festival is often described as a manifestation and celebration of the sense of community that WMNF has created in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region.
Tampa Bay Times in a 2010 article describes the event by asking the following – What do these artists have in common? An openly gay blues harmonica wizard; a fiercely independent Chinese-American folk singer; an Indian-American artist crooning classic '60s soul; a chirpy-voiced riot girl playing some of the grittiest rock in Nashville; a rapper who moved from New York to Tampa to get discovered. They're all were booked on the bill to perform for WMNF's Tropical Heatwave - a festival that is often described as more of a celebration of communities, people and cultures than just an event.
A city within a city described as Tampa’s Latin Quarter for over a century, Ybor City is an exotic blend of aromas, flavors, sights and sounds. From the scent of roasting Cuban coffee early in the morning to the rhythms of Latin music late into the night, Ybor is a feast for the senses.
Visitors may choose from a variety of cuisine - Spanish, Cuban, Italian, Greek and French - just by strolling down La Setima (7th Avenue), the main street of the Historic District. One can share authentic tapas and a pitcher of Spanish sangria in a café atmosphere reminiscent of a Mediterranean village.
Visitors may also browse eclectic shops and art galleries, attend one of the museums, see a “hand-rolled cigar” being made or just relax and “people watch” with a cup of Ybor’s famous café con leche.
The city was founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor as a cigar-manufacturing center. Ybor City today is one of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida. Its red brick buildings, wrought iron balconies and narrow brick streets give it an old-world charm that is a refreshing change of pace from the beach and the mall.