Hopefully, Florida-Georgia Game Will Remain In Jacksonville

The Florida-Georgia annual football showdown is a bonanza of activity for hotels, restaurants and bars in Northeast Florida, including on Amelia Island. 

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

— Steve’s Marketplace —

While people were blowing through money during the Florida-Georgia block party at TIAA Bank Field last weekend, they were raising money next door for the downtrodden victims of Hurricane Ian. 

The crowd was peaceful and the music melodic at Luke Bryan’s concert at the Veterans Memorial Arena Friday night, until someone unexpected was called up on stage. When popular Gov. Ron DeSantis was introduced, the crowd erupted with cheers as if someone scored a touchdown. 

Bryan felt compelled to explain his decision afterward. He came under attack on social media by the angry mob. Bryan wasn’t trying to be political. He believes the governor of Florida is relevant in fundraising efforts to rebuild many areas of Florida after the devastating hurricane. 

“We’re going to have some fun and raise some money tonight for the great state of Florida,” Bryan told his audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the stage Gov. Ron DeSantis.” 

DeSantis gave Bryan a high-five and proceeded to throw out promotional hats to the crowd. He later tweeted to Bryan: “Thanks for letting me crash the party last night!” 

Nobody knows Bryan’s political preferences, and nobody cares. Performers don’t have to declare their political party to attract audiences to see them sing, dance, act. It’s better they don’t, because it is irrelevant. 

Bringing DeSantis onto the stage should not diminish Bryan’s altruistic appearance. In fact, many in the crowd enjoyed the surprise visit by DeSantis, judging from their wild applause. 

The country superstar said he hoped to “raise awareness” about the hurricane’s wrath. And, in the meantime, “Have a little fun between the Georgia and Florida college fans before the game.” 

From reports, the rebuilding effort coordinated by DeSantis has been remarkable. Communities helping communities, neighbors helping neighbors. Regardless of political differences – the way it should be. 

It’ll be a long time for many towns like Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach and Matlacha to recover to a semblance of what they were. However, timely federal and state emergency funds and quickly disbursed insurance proceeds will drive the process. 

Getting back to the Florida-Georgia football rivalry, it’s been played in Jacksonville for a lot of years. The annual showdown is a bonanza of activity for hotels and restaurants and bars in Northeast Florida, including on Amelia Island. 

The financial windfall from mostly Georgia fans staying on Amelia Island on game weekend is significant. However, in recent years, the University of Georgia has indicated it wants the game moved elsewhere. And since Georgia is the defending national champion, its opinion carries even more weight.  

 The robust festivities around the stadium each year confirm it’s still the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.” Like clockwork, Georgia fans stay on Amelia Island and go to the game by boat or bus or taxi. The party begins on Friday each year, when fans flock into downtown Fernandina Beach in a treasured weekend here. 

Hopefully the game will remain in Jacksonville, instead of being moved to Atlanta or somewhere else. It’s a fall tradition. And a lucrative one at that. 

 _____Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a national brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in several weekly newspapers in North Florida and in Southeast Georgia, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].)