SoWal Insider Tips for the 30A Songwriters Festival

January 9, 2013 by Danny Burns

The 30A Songwriters Festival has quickly become the premier gathering for some of the country’s best and brightest talent. This year’s lineup includes more than 125 world-class performers playing more than 250 shows at 21 of Scenic 30A’s finest venues. Although ticket prices have risen considerably since the festival’s first year in 2010, so has the value for our dollar.

I've had the privilege to be a part of the festival four years running. As a musician and writer, I must say this is my favorite event of the year in SoWal. People from all over the country flock to our little piece of heaven on America’s southern coast for this one-of-a-kind gathering. And for good reason – it’s incredible!

There have been few complaints about the festival in the past - usually from people who are unfamiliar with the “nuts and bolts” of how the festival works.

Check the festival website for lodging specials from official lodging partners.

Here are a few helpful tips to get the most enjoyment out of the event Jan.18-20, produced by the Cultural Arts Alliance (CAA) of Walton County, presented by Visit South Walton (TDC), and sponsored by

Half the fun is the excitement of getting the freshly-printed schedule and planning your itinerary, but make a “plan B” in case the show you want to attend is already at capacity when you arrive.

If there is a show that is a must see for you, make sure you get to the venue early to claim your seat. Many artists have huge followings and have the fans to prove it. Don’t be shut out because you planned to “venue hop” to see one specific artist who may be grouped with other songwriters for a particular show.

Some of the best moments and memories are from amazing talent you may not have heard of, performing next to artists you recognize. Make your plans, but be flexible. The complete schedule will be available 5-7 days before the festival’s kickoff on the Cultural Arts Alliance website:

Most of the venues offer food and drink, usually in the form of a special festival menu. For example: don’t expect to go to Caliza Restaurant by the pool at Alys Beach and have a nice dinner at a table with a server  and enjoy the show. It doesn’t work that way. Last year, Caliza had great food and drink, but you had to leave your seat to get them. We have so many incredible restaurants here in our area, but for this one special weekend some of them are transformed into music venues.

Most venues have free parking available for patrons, but at some you may need to park and walk a short distance. You never know what the weather will be like. It can be in the sixties and sunny, or in the forties and rainy. Dressing accordingly and in layers will help you stay comfortable.

If you want to get rowdy, dance, and talk with friends, keep in mind at some venues this is acceptable and other venues it is not. Pandora’s in Grayton Beach is a great place to eat, drink, and be merry. The Seaside REP Theater is “a sit down and listen while enjoying a nice glass of wine” place. The artists who are playing their hearts out for you have donated their time and effort to entertain you. Don’t insult them by being in the wrong place with the wrong attitude. There’s a place for everyone and every mood so choose accordingly.

Drink responsibly and of course don't drink and drive. If you are looking for fine wine, beer, and spirits - check out partner and festival sponsor, Emerald Coast Wine and Spirits, now with two locations in WaterColor Crossing and Seacrest.

Take a little cash with you as well. Many artists will have merchandise and CDs for sale at their shows. Show them a little love. If you like it, buy it!

Finally, hats off to Jennifer Steele, Russell Carter and the army of volunteers that help the CAA coordinate the massive effort that makes this festival so much fun to attend. When you need help, they’ll be there for you. Kudos to all of these fine people who give their time to help locals and visitors alike feel welcome to the 30A Songwriters Festival in the paradise known as South Walton Beaches.

Let us know your insider tips, or questions, in the comments below, or drop us a line

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