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Island Hopper festival to return in 2015

By Staff | Dec 3, 2014

Overwhelmingly positive feedback from musicians, visitors and island merchants will prompt the return in 2015 of the Islander Hopper Songwriter Fest.

Island Hopper was such a hit, in fact, that the city of Fort Myers will be added to the venue that begins in September 2015. Songwriter/performers and locations have yet been announced, but a return of the event is certain, according to the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, the agency that devised and hosted the Island Hopper. Musicians involved in the event have posted social media raves of the festival’s location and the response from visitors. Festival sponsors were also pleased with the results and will again promote the event, county tourism officials said.

The Island Hopper is modeled after a successful music festival in Key West. Lee County tourism officials pictured an event that would pump enthusiasm and offseason cash into southwest Florida’s hospitality industry. But the response from country-music songwriter/performers, merchants and others was beyond expectations, county tourism officials said. The event attracted some 55 performers and songwriters in 80 shows over two weekends Sept. 26-28 and Oct. 3-5. Thousands of visitors flocked to 20 venues in Captiva and Fort Myers Beach. Adding the third venue is a testament to the event’s success, Lee County officials insist.

Captiva merchants reported a surge in sales and interest. Sanibel merchants also reported a runoff in tourism from visitors to Captiva.

Return of the Island Hopper coincides with a VCB marketing effort in the Midwest to promote Fort Myers and the Captiva/Sanibel areas. The effort in Chicago features artist Judy Ledgerwood’s work on billboards and buildings pitching southwest Florida as a destination.

Ledgerwood had been inspired in her colorful art after staying this spring in a Captiva beachhouse owned by Robert Rauschenberg, the icon in contemporary art who died in 2008.

Eight of Ledgerwood’s “Postcards from Captiva” had been placed in watercolor billboards along Chicago streets and freeways. Lee County VCB co-sponsored the marketing with Chicago cultural agencies to promote southwest Florida tourism, said Laura Chmielewski, director of marketing for the VCB. Success of the Island Hopper was measured in merchant, sponsor and web feedback, as well as comparables in Lee County bed tax revenue, she said.

Overall response to the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, was “fabulous,” Chmielewski said.