Since its inception five years ago, the 30A Songwriters Festival has grown by leaps and bounds. Festival chairman Russell Carter attributes the festival's popularity and success to several things.



One thing that differentiates the 30ASF from the many other music festivals across the country is that it is a unique musical experience in that everyone who is invited to play the festival is an original songwriter, said Carter.



"That is the tie that binds all the musicians together in a bond of musical respect and admiration, and what is evident to everyone in the audience up and down 30A is a consistent authenticity to the music and performances," he said. "This is not manufactured music, not singers covering songs others wrote, nothing is auto tuned, nothing is taped to backing tracks — these are soul bearing, heart wrenching, honest performances that will make you laugh, cry, and make you think about your life and others in ways you may not have imagined before.”



Of course, it doesn't hurt that the festival is held in a beautiful scenic area either, he admits.



"Bonnaroo is one of the most popular festivals in the country and one of my favorites musically. But camping out in the heat is the norm and a camper trailer is their luxury housing. We have the shades of  blue and green of the water and the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico that define our area and housing choices begin with  WaterColor, Alys, Rosemary, WaterSound, Grayton, Seagrove, Seaside and Dune Allen beaches. People who come to this festival love the resorts, the bars, the restaurants and the galleries," he said. 



Another thing that keeps people coming back to this festival is its scope and quality, said Carter.



"We try each year to expand the scope and quality of the event," he said. “These artists are storytellers, entertainers, liars, thieves, conjurers, saints and sinners, lovers and haters -- collectively they are the poets of our times. They chronicle their lives and yours and mine and in the process they will touch you and make this weekend one to remember for a long, long time." 



This year, new entertainment venues include the Lake House at WaterColor, Grayton Bar & Grill, and Messina's at Gulf Place.



"Musically, we like to expand in numbers and genres," said Carter, who is excited to present singer songwriters Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Ani DiFranco, Shawn Mullins and Kristian Bush of Sugarland.



On Sunday at Gulf Place, 30ASWF will present what he describes as a 4th of July fireworks guitar virtuoso blues display in January when Cooper Carter & the Royal Senders, Glenn Philips Band, Tinsley Ellis and Robert Randolph play in succession.



Also scheduled are two VIP dinners with celebrity chefs from Miller Union and Watershed in Atlanta with special shows by Kristain Bush and Shawn Mullins on Saturday and Sunday.



Another expansion is the music and brunch offerings at Caliza, Bud & Alleys, Hibiscus, and Grayton Bar & Grill.



"You will see an increased presence of shuttle buses on 30A each night of the festival as well," said Carter.



For more information, a schedule, lineup and ticket information, visit www.30asongwritersfestival.com.



While the festival is offering a full lineup of activities all weekend for ticket holders, a fun weekend can still be had for those who do not have tickets. For some ideas on what is out there to do for free look at www.SwampWritersFestival.com. This site states that it is “a grass roots alternative to wristband festivals” and includes a sampling of local hotspots “to listen to music, eat out… and generally get around 30A at speed and with less money.”