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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Celebrities,  dignitaries and a media horde convened at Sun Life Stadium to help blast off what organizers believe will be the most explosive Jazz in the Gardens edition yet.

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert will shepherd in the likes of Maxwell, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, Erykah Badu, Run D.M.C., Sheila E., Brian Culbertson, Men of Soul’s Jeffrey Ozborne, Peabo Bryson and Freddie Jackson as well as Jazz in the Gardens’ All Stars Ronnie Laws, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith and Tom Browne for the nationally-renowned two-day festival in the northern Miami suburb.

The extravaganza will feature more than 40 exotic food and marketplace vendors and kicked off Friday with a special press conference hosted by radio personality Tamara G and starred comedians D.L. Hughley and Rickey Smiley, both radio show hosts who will serve as co-emcees for the festival.

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“People come here not just for a football game,” Gilbert said. “They can come here, and we can transform a parking lot into a garden where people can just hear music or dance or have food, and it’s thoroughly entertaining.”

Also in attendance at the pre-festival press conference were Albert Tucker from Greater Fort Lauderdale’s Multicultural Business Development Department and Men of Soul’s Freddie Jackson.

Gilbert hailed the previous administration for starting out with a fledgling annual event that was very small and local and mushroomed into a major national event.

“It just shows what you can do if you just stick with something,” he said. “When things start out typically they are hard, but as you work with it, and you stay committed, convicted and persistent, what happens is people start to believe because you believe, and I think that our confidence as a community became contagious because now we have people coming from all across the world.”

And this year is expected to be largest ever. Last year’s event brought in 68,000 in ticket sales with people coming in from the city and as far away as Australia. This year, event organizers are anticipating to sell 71,000 tickets.

“The main thing is to create an economic engine that’s really never been seen in this area before for our culture” Tucker said.

Jazz in the Gardens will also feature local artists Valerie Tyson, Karina Iglesias of “The Voice” and Nigerian saxophonist John Erinosho. On Saturday and Sunday, doors to the festival will open at 3 p.m. and the show will start at 4 p.m. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster or http://www.jazzinthegardens.com.

Take a look at the photographic highlights from the press conference at Sun Life Stadium below:

 

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