Eighteen months ago, the owners of Sunset Grill hired Jurgen Wochnik to manage their restaurant and tiki bar.
Wochnik, a German immigrant who has lived in the Sarasota area for five years, has played the drums since age 11 and toured with bands throughout Europe for more than 10 years. His dream was to own a tiki bar on the beach and enjoy his music.
Part of that dream recently came true.
Wochnik and fellow enthusiasts Stephan Joiner and Micky Raimonda hoped to attract a few drummers at the initial session of a new drumming circle they formed April 6. They were elated to see a dozen drummers participate and more than 300 residents and vacationers gather to enjoy the atmosphere created by the tempos played on many styles of drums — djembes, bougarabous, cajons, snares and bongos.
The group is meeting weekly and continues to grow every Sunday, starting at 6:45 p.m. and continuing until the sun sets over Tampa Bay.
“I wasn’t able to finance this dream,” said Wochnik, “but managing the Sunset Grill has allowed me to play where I work. Being here is super-satisfying. You cannot buy happiness, but creating happiness is like creating a song.”
For years, Native American, South American and African drum enthusiasts from the South Shore area have had to travel to Siesta Key in Sarasota to join beach drumming festivities. Much to the delight of many local drummers, those days are over.
“The community has been waiting for something like this for a long time, and now we are able to bring it to them,” Wochnik said.
All drum enthusiasts and wannabes are invited to join the circle every Sunday. Experience isn’t necessary, just a drum and the desire to have a great time while anticipating another beautiful sunset. Onlookers can purchase burgers and hot dogs grilled on the beach or enjoy the view and dinner from the glass-enclosed restaurant. An additional tiki bar serves wine, beer and sodas to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors who come to enjoy the entertainment.
Special events such as a Summer Solstice celebration in June will be announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
For more information, call the Sunset Grill at (813) 645-7739.
Dosi Loverro is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]