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Michael Franti and Spearhead to headline Actions for Change festival in Parkland

Michael Franti and Spearhead, whose music combines social consciousness with infectious melodies, will headline the inaugural Actions for Change Food and Music Festival, scheduled for Sept. 30 at Pine Trails Park in Parkland. Other musical acts announced for the festival include Nahko and Skip Marley, grandson of reggae icon Bob Marley.

Festival organizer Doug Zeif says two more performers will be announced in coming days. At first, Zeif imagined his fundraiser to help Stoneman Douglas shooting victims and causes would be “a chefs-in-shorts barbecue event.” But it quickly morphed into something much bigger.

“A major show,” Zeif says. How big? He says the event almost landed Justin Timberlake, but the scheduling didn’t work out. Zeif, a hospitality-industry veteran whose sons Sam and Matthew survived the school shooting, began planning the event in the spring. Sam’s best friend, Joaquin Oliver, and Matthew’s geography teacher, Scott Beigel, were among 17 killed in the Feb. 14 rampage. Doug and Jennifer Zeif created Actions for Change to heal the community and keep activist momentum going before November’s midterm elections.

What is Actions for Change?

The event is being billed as a “bipartisan music, food and arts festival dedicated to providing love, hope and healing … and empowering today’s youth to demand change.” It will feature food from more than 30 top national and regional chefs, musical performances and a live mural painting by Manuel Oliver, Joaquin Oliver’s father, along with a silent auction of art and other items. Zeif says there will be no political speeches, but the event will encourage voter registration and it will be the culmination of a weeklong series of nationwide concerts to end gun violence.

When and where is the event?

The festival will take place 5-10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, rain or shine, at Pine Trails Park, 10555 Trails End, in Parkland. Capacity is limited to 3,000 attendees, and tickets must be purchased in advance.

How do I buy tickets?

Tickets are available at ActionsForChange.com. Tickets cost $150 for adults and $45 for youths (under 18). Tickets include food and soft drinks, entertainment and free parking and shuttle at the Parkland Equestrian Center. Superdonor tickets are available for $350 and include a drink package, onsite parking (limited to the first 400 people) and reserved seating near the stage. Ticket purchases are tax-deductible.

What food will be available?

More than 30 acclaimed chefs will be cooking savory, sweet and comforting bites, including some who have worked at Michelin-star restaurants and been nominated for James Beard Awards. The lineup includes Marc Vetri from Philadelphia, Suzanne Goin from Los Angeles, Gabriela Camara from Mexico City and South Florida chefs Brad Kilgore (Alter in Miami) and Jeremy and Cindy Bearman (Oceano Kitchen in Lantana). Zeif has many contacts from his decades as a hotel and restaurant executive and consultant, including the early days of the Cheesecake Factory.

What about drinks?

Parkland changed its rules banning alcohol in parks for the event, but there will be strict guidelines. Attendees are limited to three drinks, and drink packages (three for $30) must be purchased online in advance. There will also be a beer garden ($30 advance fee), with attendance limited to 80.

Will any Stoneman Douglas students perform?

Zeif says Franti is a good fit with the themes of peace and unity, and the supporting acts will be pretty good, too, including the Shine MSD students who composed a hopeful anthem in the wake of the shooting. They performed at March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and at the Tony Awards in New York. In May, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary brought a group of songwriters to Parkland to collaborate with the students, and they wrote 11 new songs. In August, they recorded those tracks for an album that will be released in September, with all proceeds going to shooting-related causes. The students will perform three new songs at the event.

Who benefits from the event?

Organizers hope to raise $1 million, and proceeds will go to two groups, Shine MSD and Change the Ref. Shine MSD raises relief funds for shooting victims and their families and provides mental-health programs centered on the arts at Stoneman Douglas and in Parkland. Change the Ref, a tax-exempt nonprofit, was launched by Manuel and Patricia Oliver to empower future leaders by giving them the tools they need to create change.

How are the Parkland kids doing?

“It’s still tough on everybody,” Zeif says. “I was talking with a colleague this morning about the texts my sons sent each other [during the shooting] and my eyes welled up.”

Oldest son Sam started college last week, a freshman at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Matthew, 15, has returned to Stoneman Douglas. His youngest son, Michael, 12, attends Westglades Middle School, next to Stoneman Douglas.

“The day of the shooting, I was in Rio on business,” Zeif says. “I flew home that night and just went into their bedrooms and stared at them. When Sam woke up, I said, ‘Let’s go see Joaquin in the hospital.’ But he looked at his phone and saw the texts that Joaquin was gone. I was pissed, so angry that something like this could happen to our kids.

“I felt like I just had to do something, personally do something. So that’s how this event came about. We’ve got Superfly [Presents] — they do the Bonnaroo festival — and Cream — they do the South Beach Wine and Food Festival — as the event organizers. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on politically, no matter how you feel about the Second Amendment, nobody wants gun violence.”

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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