GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA: A Florida park was renamed after iconic rocker Tom Petty, who played at that park as a boy.
The Gainesville Sun reports that hundreds of members of the Tom Petty Nation! fan club visited Gainesville on Saturday to celebrate the star’s birthday with his music and the dedication of the former Northeast Park as Tom Petty Park.
His family was also on hand.
“My brother and I grew up in this park. We played as kids. My cousin reminded me the other day of my remark that it was a sanctuary, and it really was,” said brother Bruce Petty. “It was a place for us to escape and be kids and have fun. The fact that we are doing this today and the part that we played in it makes it so much more special.”
Petty died Oct. 2, 2017. He was born Oct. 20, 1950 in Gainesville and lived in the small city until he left for Los Angeles to make it big in the music business.
Petty sold millions of records worldwide with the Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburys supergroup and as a solo artist. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
His family lived a block from the Gainesville park and it was like a second home for him and his brother.
Other area events celebrated the singer and included the Tom Petty Birthday Bash and Tom Petty Weekend.
Adria Petty, Tom’s daughter, grew up in Los Angeles but spent time in North Florida with her parents. She talked about a song called “Gainesville” that’s on “An American Treasure,” a new four-CD box set of Petty’s music.
“Gainesville is an extraordinary place and if you listen to my dad’s music here, it has a different meaning. The idea of the air smelling good and the trees are green — there is nothing like this park to really illustrate that,” she said.
″‘Gainesville’ has been blasting in my head since I landed,” she said. “It’s a very important town to Florida. Florida is a really beautiful and complex state and (Gainesville) fosters a lot of intelligence and compassion and incredible manners and incredible decency.”
Local artists Carrie and Jesus Martinez painted a Tom Petty Mural at the Sidney Lanier Center, the elementary school Petty attended. They were asked to paint an 8-by-8-foot mural on canvas that was auctioned Saturday night to benefit the UF program.
“We hope to make a lot of money for a really good cause,” Carrie Martinez said. “We’re Tom Petty fans. Everybody is a Tom Petty fan.”