The 30A Songwriters Festival’s Lingering Melody

December 8, 2014 by Richard Olivarez

“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Andersen

In attempt to prove Mr. Andersen wrong, let me tell you about what I consider to be the greatest musical event to ever grace the coast of Northwest Florida and the lasting effects it’s had on our company and myself.

If you’ve attended, you know I am referring to the 30A Songwriters Festival - which takes place annually over the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend in January. More than 150 talented songwriters arrive to our pristine shores and fill the air with music from 25 venues sprinkled along South Walton’s Scenic 30A. Hosting just over 200 performances, this event transforms South Walton into a lyrical wonderland where music flows from every community, day and night, for three solid days. 

The 30A Songwriters Festival is in its fifth year and I’ve personally had the opportunity to attend the last three, as our company has been a Premier Lodging Sponsor. Ocean Reef is a proud supporter of the arts, however no single event has resonated with myself and throughout our company as profoundly as the 30A Songwriters Festival.

Two years ago at a post-performance dinner at the Vue on 30A, I sat with our in-house Photographer/Videographer Mark, our General Manager Chris and his wife Gileah. Chris and his wife are accomplished songwriters and musicians and perform as Chris & Gileah. They had just finished a moving set and as the wine flowed (bourbon for some) and the music played on in the background, Mark and I dreamed of utilizing our marketing abilities to enhance their phenomenal musical talents.

One of the songs they played in particular really stuck with me. White Florida Sun was an older song of theirs, but to me it embodies the festival itself. The indelible melody and moving lyrics paint a perfect portrait of what life is along 30A.

"White Florida sun, Mexican sea, well, they're calling out to me… Sand like the snow, bodies of gold, well, I'm leaving Losing Street. But I've got to let you know before I leave here... I placed every bet I had on you loving me, dear."

Shortly thereafter, Mark and I devised a plan to share it with everyone. Our plan was to pool our resources, creating a music video that complimented Chris and Gileah’s White Florida Sun and highlighted some of the delightful experiences that are cherished in South Walton and its neighboring community, Destin. 

We did a little collective brainstorming and then Mark dove in and led his team to expertly craft his very first music video (although from the quality, you may not believe me!) The White Florida Sun video gave us a way to share a unique vacation experience and our brand in a truly organic, entertaining way.

We released the video publicly just a few months before the 2014 30A Songwriter's Festival. The video immediately went viral with over 250,000 views on Facebook. The excitement from the video inspired us to do more. We wanted to continue to harness our passion for vacation rentals and music – usually two fields profoundly independent of each other.

We decided to host an intimate listening party during the festival as we felt this would be a fantastic way to share the music, connect with our guests, and enhance an event by which we were inspired. The turnout was tremendous and the event a huge success. Three acts, headlined by Chris & Gileah, played in our Seacrest office, on a makeshift stage on 30A in front of a diverse and captivated audience. Everyone who attended our event was now hooked on the 30A Songwriter Experience!

Now as we approach the 2015 event, I write this message steps away from our nearly complete creative suite, anchored by a professional music and video studio. Born from a great meal along 30A surrounded by talented musicians and friends, White Florida Sun has helped Ocean Reef find a creative, profound way to extol the virtues of our remarkable community and the work we do here in a moving way. And as we, the Songwriters Festival and Chris & Gileah play on, the story continues to unfold. As it does, we will celebrate the journey.

Ocean Reef Vacation Rentals & Real Estate is a proud supporter of the arts.  As a Premier Lodging Partner of the 2015 Songwriters Festival we’d like to extend a 15% discount to festival attendees in select South Walton Vacation Rentals.  In addition to discounted accommodations, guests who stay with Ocean Reef will receive 20% off tickets to the event.  


Richard Olivarez's picture

Richard stays on top of South Walton and Destin as Editor in Chief of Souvenir Magazine and Marketing Director for Ocean Reef Resorts - a premier vacation rental company, offering a wide array of luxury properties from Destin to Panama City Beach.

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