Imagine musical performances by 130 performers taking place at 25 different locations up and down one 18-mile stretch of road in one weekend -- and several of those performers enjoy national acclaim.
This will be reality when the 30A Songwriter's Festival returns for the fourth time Jan. 18-20.
Representing diverse styles ranging from folk and country to rock and blues, the 2013 line-up is touting headliners Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, Shawn Mullins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jeffrey Steele, Suzanne Vega and Fastball.
In addition, other recognizable names include The Shadowboxers, Joe Leathers, Kyle Jacobs, Gretchen Peters, Donnie Sundal and Boukou Groove, Geoff McBride, Daphne Willis, Reed Waddle, Forrest Williams, Mike Whitty, Lyle LaMonica, Dannica Lowery, Kelsey Anna, Ben Friedman, Drew Tillman, The Owsley Brothers, Chris Alvarado, and Mojo Rising. In all, the festival will feature 200 musical performances by these artists and more.
As of press time, the final schedule wasn’t set, but venues will range from listening rooms to spacious outdoor amphitheaters, with each location offering its unique individual vibe, ambiance, and musically-inspired stage artwork.
Artwork created by more than a dozen artists over the past four years will be featured as backdrops to most of the stages. The location of each backdrop is outlined in the official program guide. Artists who volunteered their service include folk artist Alan Moore, Allison Wickey, Andy Saczinsky, Bailey Miller, Billie Gaffrey, Bryan Hand, Henry Nooe, Justin Gaffrey, Justin Lyons, Mallory Page, Michael McCarty, Raquel Morgan and Russell Beans. Several of the artists will be featured on festival merchandise this year, including 2013 Visit South Walton Artist of the Year Saczynski and former Artists of the Year Wickey and McCarty.
The festive weekend kicks off Jan. 16 with a private in-the-round mini-concert by renowned stars Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls for the members of event sponsor Walton County Cultural Arts Alliance.
The official public kick-off party will be from 4-6 p.m. at Pandora's in Grayton on Friday with music in both rooms.
"That's when people will gather and plot their strategy for the weekend," said Russell Carter, event producer and chair, and Cultural Arts Alliance board member.
Throughout the weekend performances will take place on stages ranging from The Vue on the west end to Rosemary Beach on the east and several locales in between.
Rosemary Beach will host three venues: Rosemary Beach Town Hall, the Summer Kitchen, and Amavida Coffee House.
There will also be performances at Seaside, WaterColor, Gulf Place, Grayton, and Alys Beach. New venues include 723 Whiskey Bravo in Seagrove and Bentley’s in Seacrest.
WaterColor Inn & Resort will serve once again as the Festival headquarters.
The two largest outdoor venues will be Sunday afternoon at the Seaside and Gulf Place Amphitheaters, closing out the festival with headliners Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith sharing the Seaside stage and Suzanne Vega and Mary Chapin Carpenter sharing the Gulf Place stage.
The schedule of other performances is available on the website www.30asongwritersfestival.com.
"The 30A Songwriters Festival has quickly gained a reputation among musicians as a forum for true songwriters to perform their self-penned songs as well as established performers to showcase their original compositions," said Carter. "We book artists with diverse musical styles. Our emphasis is the art of the song.”
"South Walton celebrates a thriving arts community, and we are proud to showcase our local talent alongside nationally-acclaimed songwriters and up-and-coming artists to raise funds and awareness for arts education initiatives that benefit the children of Walton County," said Cultural Arts Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Steele.
All net proceeds from the festival benefit CAA's programs.
Carter is an event lawyer and manager and represents many of the artists. He volunteered at the event its first year with booking of artists and came on the board the second year.
That first year, there were 50 to 60 artists and proved to be hugely popular. Carter said the decision was made then to build the event up and make it something “big and wonderful.”
The number of artists participating is now at 130 for this year and the number of tickets and passes issued were cut off at 3,000 last year and will be again this year, he said. And that cut-off number is expected to be reached by the time the box office opens Jan. 16. As a result, day passes will only be available if weekend tickets have not sold out.
Weekend passes are $180, and there are no VIPs. If available, day passes will be $70.
No pets or coolers are allowed at any venue.
Weekend passes are available online at www.30asongwritersfestival.com, at Central Square Records in Seaside, or by calling the CAA at 622-5970.
"The immediate impact on the economy created by the 30A Songwriters Festival is the infusion of business activity resulting from thousands of customers and fans descending on 30A for a long weekend in January which prior to the creation of the festival was dead," said Carter. "We employ many people and businesses open their doors and thrive all week. Over the long term, the notion of this being a summer resort erodes and visitors and second-home owners begin to view 30A as a place to visit and enjoy year round.”