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Gasparilla Music Festival Kids Fest: A Sweet Rush of Music to the Head  

Originally published in the March 2019 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

The great Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” Music is one of the most beautiful gifts we can bestow on our children.

Related: Gasparilla Music Festival Founder shares the history of this new Tampa tradition

No doubt, Tampa Bay kids will enjoy Gasparilla Music Festival’s Kids Fest just as much as the children’s parade. Always striving for the sweetest symphony, Kids Fest organizers promise another year of exciting programming. Tune in for high notes from my conversation with Kids Fest captain Melanie Rouse.  

Organic Sound 

Gasparilla-Music-Festival-Kids-FestMelanie explained that Kids Fest grew from GMF’s mission to support music education in bay area schools: “Kids Fest gives children a taste of music in a carefree format, which differs from pressure-filled lessons sometimes forced on kids.” Melanie believes the environment inspires event-goers because they see other youth singing and playing instruments: “Kids Fest exposes children to performing arts they may not otherwise be interested in.” Parents love that children are entertained by ambient talent throughout the venue: “It’s never stale,” Melanie expressed. In addition to positive buzz around the fest’s commitment for continuous evolution, parents appreciate that Kids Fest offers a way to enjoy GMF without needing an all-day-babysitter.  

Feel Good Music  

The Kids Fest team keeps its finger on the pulse of Kindie Rock—a genre blending singers’ sensibilities with children’s themes. This year’s Kids Fest headliner, Laurie Berkner, is a Kindie world shining star—with 12 best-selling, award-winning albums. She’ll play two sets, inside Glazer Children’s Museum, on Sunday, March 10th (1 P.M.; 3:30 P.M.). Beyond enjoying the kindie queen, families get free admission to Glazer: “Glazer has been a great partnership for us—pushing music friendly activities,” noted Melanie. The reciprocity is rewarding for both organizations, as it promotes kids’ interest in the museum and music.    

Line Up 

Kids Fest takes place on March 9th and 10th  (11 A.M.- 2 P.M) at Kiley Gardens—offering entertainment on both stages. Highly interactive, Kids Fest includes the Kuumba Drummers, crafting with Kraftologee, face painting, and instrument petting—Tampa’s Little Kids Rock brings an instrument petting zoo and provides onsite mini-lessons. Kids have made maracas and, making an encore performance this year, is the tie-dye shirt station: “It was a big hit and left kids with a keepsake they hopefully keep wearing,” said Melanie. Also playing this year is Bricks 4 Kidz: “They build stuff with the kids and bring GMF LEGO displays. It’s great for letting kids get creative,” shared Melanie. Kids Fest is a sugar rush of kid-centric entertainment. Sweet spot: it’s free for kids 12 and under.     

Tampa General Hospital is a Kids Fest sponsor this year, and will bring wellness based interactive components to the event: “They’ll push physical health throughout Kids Fest,” Melanie said. Kids Fest 2019 promises to attract kids past the toddler years: “We’re offering a silent disco and having cameos by Tampa Bay Rays’ DJ Kitty, Tampa Bay Lightning’s ThunderBug, and local favorite Mr. Tommy 

Curtain Call  

Kids Fest is a hit because of its tireless volunteers. In fact, Melanie got her start with GMF as a volunteer during the festival’s inception: “I’m a music lover, and I have tried every instrument I can.” As the captain of GMF’s Kids Fest, Melanie is able to help cultivate and nurture a love for music, arts, and culture in Tampa Bay’s children.  

On March 9th and 10th, put on your festival fashion and rock the park with Gasparilla Music Festival’s Kids Fest.  



Tune In to All Things GMF  


  • Register to volunteer 
  • View the full GMF 2019 lineup  
  • Learn more about Recycled Tunes  
Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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