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I returned home after my first year of college filled with excitement.

After spending two semesters at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, I was ready for the summer to begin and enjoy my time being home in New Orleans. 

What’s more, I was just in time to catch the second weekend of Jazz Fest, which contrary to the name didn’t actually feature that much jazz.

I went down to the New Orleans Fairgrounds with my friends excited for the lineup the festival had in store. 

Wilco, Kings of Leon before they sold out, but mostly I was excited to see Earth, Wind, and Fire. After all, my birthday was 11 days before the 21st of September, it felt like they knew me already.

As anyone who’s been to a music festival can tell you, it’s not always about who you want to see, however. I followed my friends around to the many acts they were excited for throughout most of the day. 

As such, I had to sit through performances from musicians such as Drake and Lil’ Wayne before I could finally see Earth, Wind, and Fire in all their groove. Nothing prepared me for what I would have to go through to get to them, however.

For those unfamiliar with Jazz Fest, it gets crowded. Like, too crowded. Like, I’m mildly claustrophobic and was in need of some space crowded. Being smothered from all directions by people I wanted to get away from was how I imagined Katie Holmes felt being married to Tom Cruise. It was not fun.

In order to make our way to Congo Square where Earth, Wind, and Fire were playing, we had to make our way through a crowd of thousands who went to see the act on the main stage. I kid you not when I say that sifting through the ocean of people at the Acura Stage took one, whole, hour. That is how crowded it was.

I ask our less resilient readers to cover their eyes at the words I’m about to write. The fact that we had to sift through an hour of people to get where we needed to go wasn’t the problem. 

The problem was that we had to sift through an hour of people while being forced to listen to the act performing at the Acura Stage. 

Ladies and gentlemen of Fairbanks, we had to sift through an hour of people while being forced to listen to...John Mayer.

For those of you brave enough to continue reading after seeing those horrifying words on their paper/screen, I commend you. 

I hope you can commend me for forcing my way past frat bros named Chet, dad’s who still think they’re cool just because they put on a Hawaiian shirt, and every high school girl in New Orleans just so I could see Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Sift through all of those people I did, however, as my friends and I managed to reach Congo Square just in time to see the group perform Shining Star. While I had to surf my way past every 21-year old woman still too young to know that every toxic relationship they will have for the next five to nine years will be with a guy who listens to John Mayer, I made it. That alone made the return home worth it.

That takes us to this week’s Hart of the Matter: The Alaska Goldpanners are returning home. Monday marks the final day of their road series against the Peninsula Oilers as they face off in Kenai at 6 p.m.. 

The Panners will be off Tuesday and Wednesday before finally playing their first game at Growden Park in two years on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. as they take on OC Riptide. That will begin a three-game home series against the Riptide with additional games Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.. 

Alaska will then play the first game of a three day tournament at Growden on Sunday. The Panners will play Berkovich 35 at 1 p.m. while OC will play the SD Waves at 5 p.m. It’s a home coming that Fairbanksans have long been waiting for.

Otherwise, it’s a bit of a low-key week in the world of Fairbanks sports. There will, however, be racing this Friday at the Mitchell Raceway beginning at 7 p.m.. Ticket information for racing and the Goldpanners can be found on both of their respective websites.

With that, we’re clear. Thanks for getting to the Hart of the Matter with me. If there’s anything I left out, forgive me. I haven’t been able to get You’re Body is a Wonderland out of my head for the past decade due to a traumatic experience.

Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.