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Sunday, May 26, 2024


Saturday will mark the 58th birthday of Gainesville’s brightest star. This week, the city will celebrate Tom Petty a year after his passing.


The first spot to visit on this week’s Petty celebration is Swamp Head Brewery, at 3650 SW 42 Ave, where they are serving a Tom Petty inspired brew. Among the Wildflowers, the light and crisp American Kölsch crafted to be as universally enjoyable as the 1994 Petty hit “Wildflowers” it was named after, was released to honor the artist on Tuesday.


This weekend, fans are invited to two different music festival birthday celebrations just a couple blocks apart at the Heartwood Soundstage, 619 S Main St, and Depot Park, 200 SE Depot Ave.


Tom Petty Weekend at Heartwood Soundstage begins Thursday with a meet-and-greet. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Tom Leadon, a former bandmate of Petty’s, is hosting story-time. He will regall the crowd with tales from the years he spent with his friend and fellow artist. Leadon will also take the stage with his band, The Bayjacks, both Friday and Saturday night.


At 5 p.m. bands will begin to take the stage. The Relics, a Gainesville band, will take the stage first. Bob McPeek, 67, is the guitarist, as well as one of the partners of Heartwood Soundstage.


Heartwood Soundstage first put on the Petty Birthday Bash last year after the rockstar’s unexpected passing at the beginning of October 2017. McPeek said it was something that was very well received and generated a lot of enthusiasm, so the venue decided to do it again.

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“This year’s going to be even bigger and crazier” McPeek said. “We have spared no expense in bringing in some really really fine entertainment.”


According to McPeek, music will begin at 4 or 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday and go on until 1 a.m. the following morning. One band he mentioned was a talented Minnesota-based Petty tribute band, Free Fallin’. Free Fallin’ will take the stage both nights. McPeek also mentioned another original member of Mudcrunch named Danny Roberts is performing with his band, Mudpies.


In addition, over a dozen local bands, including Flipturn and The Hails, will grace Heartwood Soundstage this weekend. There will also be local vendors and food.


Heartwood Soundstage is also offering six bus tours of Gainesville which will showcase historic points in Petty’s life like his family’s farm. McPeek said these tours are now almost completely sold out.


“We’ll have a lot of people from in town and a lot of people coming from out of town,” said McPeek.


He said that his venue will be the hub of Tom Petty Nation this weekend, a national fanclub with over 30,000 members.


Tickets for the entire event are available at for $25.


“It’s bigger than any one event- Tome Petty’s memory. So I think the events together will make it an even stronger, amazing experience for people who come here,” McPeek said about the other birthday celebration. “And they’re very close so people can migrate from one to the other.”


Down the road at Depot Park, music will also begin at 5 p.m. Friday. Heavy Petty, Gainesville’s own Petty tribute band, will be onstage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets to this event are free, but attendees are welcome to upgrade their packages to benefit UF Shands Arts in Medicine and receive exclusive perks like an invitation to the pre-party at First Magnitude Brewing Co.


The City is also celebrating it’s golden star by renaming Northeast Park to Tom Petty Park at a ceremony at the location at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Bruce Petty, Tom Petty’s brother, and Adria Petty, his daughter, will be attending the dedication ceremony.


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