Miami Marine Stadium Fundraiser: Jimmy Buffet, Gloria Estefan, and Boozed-Up Parrotheads Party to Save a Landmark

Categories: Last Night

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Jimmy Buffet performs at the Coral Gables Museum
The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium amble closer and closer to the climax of their quest to renovate and reopen the woefully abandoned stadium in Key Biscayne, and as they've made progress, they've begun to change their stride. Having cleared the major hurdle of getting approval from the City of Miami for their site plan, they now enter the money phase, wherein this organization will have to finish raising the approximately $30 million dollars needed for their plans to take shape. And if there's anything your average Miami well-to-do enjoys, it's a swanky fundraiser with some exciting names at the top of the bill.

So it's no wonder the Miami Marine Stadium event that heralded the last weekend of the "Concrete Paradise" exhibition at the Coral Gables Museum featuring Jackie Nespral, Gloria Estefan, and Jimmy Buffet last night was completely sold out. And regardless of your capacity for donation, whether you drop $20 or $20K, there are few things that guarantee as much of a rollicking good time as the combination of an open bar and Jimmy Buffet.

The night got off to a bit of a slow start. In true Miami fashion, the stage remained empty for a solid hour past the alleged starting time of 6:30 p.m., leaving everyone to pass the time eating cheeseburgers or making their rounds to the open bar. Eventually, the museum's director, Christine Rupp, took to the stage and announced joyfully that they were starting right on time. And why not?

After a handful of speakers, ranging from an American Express representative to the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the lead-up to the headliners got rolling. Hilario Candela, the Cuban architect who masterfully designed Miami Marine Stadium when he was 28 years old, gave a moving speech that largely focused on the relationship between the architecture and the environment and how he'd hoped the two would speak in unison of the happiness and beauty that are engrained in this city. He also explained to the crowd of potential donors, "I'm good about dreaming, I'm not good about asking for money."

Candela then brought up Jackie Nespral, who was something akin to the master of ceremonies for the evening. She said a number of things before introducing Estefan and Buffet, some of which made sense, this line most of all: "When you grow up in Miami, there are certain iconic places that you always remember - the Orange Bowl, the Fountainebleau, the Biltmore, and of course, the Miami Marine Stadium."

When Nespral called the stars of the night up on stage, things started to get interesting. It became fairly evident fairly quickly into the discussion Nespral was moderating that Buffet was exactly as loose in the tongue as he needed to be in order to offset the aura of propriety that Estefan was exuding. With every joke he made about statutes of limitations and every halfway subtle allusion to the wildness of his nights of yesteryear, Estefan seemed to grow slightly more uncomfortable, as if her entire body was focused on not cringing. Perhaps that's a bit of an assumption; perhaps they just had a very odd sort of chemistry. In any case, it was a fun thing to watch.

Both of the Miami-centric musicians reminisced about their experiences with the stadium and why they'd come to love it so. Buffet remarked at one point, "I remember there was a rope where the boats had to pay to get in. Today, everybody would just crash the bay, then, people would pay because it was what you did. It was a fun ticket and once you got in, you could do anything you wanted."

Estefan tended to take a more sober tack, saying at one point "I think that we've got the opportunity to try to prevent a terrible thing from happening, which would be to lose that stadium. It's already built, it's in great shape, it's crazy to do anything other than bring it back, not just to its former glory, but take it into this century, this millennium, and I'm very excited about what we have the chance to do."

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