Photo story: WMNF's Tropical Heatwave concert

With 16 bands performing across three stages at Ybor City's Cuban Club, WMNF 88.5 FM’s Tropical Heatwave concert on May 4th featured several Grammy-nominated performers and locally acclaimed bands.

Following a respite in 2016 which continued through the pandemic, WMNF hosted a Heatwave cruise in 2018 before returning to Ybor City in 2023.

WMNF is recognized for its diverse music, news and public affairs programs and Tropical Heatwave represents the eclectic format of the commercial-free station.

Kimberly DeFalcoRuthie Foster performs at Tropical Heatwave.With performers crossing genres and generations, Tropical Heatwave has rock, blues, punk, soul and country-influenced acts. This year’s event included a Hip Hop Lounge.

When WMNF General Manager Randi Zimmerman, an educator and journalist who worked for WMNF as a headline news anchor from 1998-2005, returned to lead the station in February 2022, she recognized the community demand to bring back Tropical Heatwave.

Zimmerman worked with WMNF Events Coordinator Linda Reisinger, who helped start the station in 1979, Program Director Sam Hval, Volunteer, Community Outreach & Engagement Manager Miss Julie,  Music Directors  Lee “Flee” Courtney and Mike Bagley and Operations Manager Dwaine “D.T.” Terry to bring back the popular event.

And then there are the countless volunteers working at Tropical Heatwave and the station throughout the year.

"Simply, WMNF and Tropical Heatwave cannot happen without volunteers," Zimmerman says. "We would need to triple our ticket prices."

Within a week of his year’s Tropical Heatwave, the station is planning for 2025.Kimberly DeFalcoWMNF General Manager Randi Zimmerman

"We breathe for a week after the last Heatwave and start planning right away," Zimmerman says. "It’s a lot of work as venues fill up and we investigate how to fill holes in the processes."

She says the community response to events like Heatwave is one of the best parts about being at WMNF.

"The WMNF vibe is so precious," Zimmerman says. "There are many people who tell me they met their spouse at Heatwave but the biggest thing we provide is that Tropical Heatwave is the embodiment of the WMNF mission."

"We are committed to not just supporting, but celebrating independent and local artists as we amplify the voices of folks who need to be heard by others," she says. "We believe that the Tampa Bay area, which is as diverse as the lineup at Heatwave, is a more peaceful and sustainable place when we’re all tapping our feet together." 

For more information, go to 88.5 WMNF.
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