The Panama City Beach Music Festival began forty (40) years ago on the stage of Miracle Strip Amusement Park, under the name of The Festival of Champions. Buddy and Nancy Wilkes, partnered with Steve Simpson, and the trio ran successful festivals at Panama City Beach, Ft Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando.
When Steve Simpson took a full-time position with the University of Alabama in 2012, Wilkes, who is a member of the Bay County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Tourist Development Council Board of Directors, changed the name from Festival of Champions to the Panama City Beach Music Festival.
The high school and middle school band and choral festival had been held annually at Panama City Beach since 1980, until the Covid-19 Pandemic interrupted that consecutive run in 2020 and 2021. The Panama City Beach Music Festival returned this past spring, bringing hundreds of young band and choral students back to the beach.
After a successful and rewarding run of forty (40) years, Buddy and Nancy Wilkes have signed a tentative agreement to turn over ownership of the company to Chip Wise of Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Wise is the band and choir director at Leeds High School in Leeds, Alabama, where he plans to continue to serve in that capacity for many years, while also operating the Panama City Beach Music Festival.