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Island Hopper Songwriter Fest returns to Captiva

By Staff | Sep 14, 2016

Parmalee, known for their smash hit “Carolina” will perform at the Florida Repertory Theatre Wednesday, Sept. 28. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS AND SANIBEL

More than 70 songwriters will grace Captiva, Fort Myers Beach and Downtown Fort Myers for 10 days sharing their passion of music with residents and visitors during the third annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest.

“Our goal for this festival is to create a short-term reason for people to come to a destination and spend money during the time of year when businesses are typically the slowest,” Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau Island Hopper Producer Amanda Auer said.

Last year, they had 505 million media impressions through the VCB website and social media, which was an increase from the first year of 147 million impressions. Auer said the VCB received two sensational awards this year from the Florida Festival Events Association for the Island Hopper Songwriters Fest.

“We are an award winning concert,” she said.

The 10 day festival will include 21 venues in the three locations, 140 free performances and six special ticketed events.

The VCB works with two festival partners Broadcast Music Inc., who protects the rights of songwriters, and iHeart Radio who is responsible for securing the label acts.

“We have a liaison from BMI who recruits these songwriters for us. He has great contacts with the songwriter’s community,” Auer said.

“BMI is honored to be a part of what is becoming an annual tradition in Southwest Florida,” Dan Spears, vice-president industry relations, BMI said in a prepared statement. “Supporting our BMI-licensed restaurants, bars, and hotels by bringing talented BMI songwriters in to perform helps increase food and beverage revenue while putting ‘heads in beds.’ This is just one of the ways BMI continues to work with our valued licensees while shining a spotlight on our award-winning songwriters.”

Auer said this year’s Island Hopper Fest includes more songwriters, bigger names and labeled acts, such as Artist Maren Morris, whose debut single is “My Church.” She said she is the leader of the songwriter pack and will perform Sunday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m.

“We haven’t had a songwriter of this caliber,” VCB Communication Director Francesca Donlan said of the artist who was nominated for five CMA awards – Album of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year and Song and New Artist of the Year. “She is the big buzz for the Island Hopper Fest. We are excited about that.”

Morris will have the festivals first poolside performance at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach. Auer said any guests who are staying at the Pink Shell on Oct. 2 will automatically be invited to see the concert. Those not lodging there can purchase tickets for the performance by visiting www.fortmyers-sanibel.com. Tickets are $20.

This year the festival will kick off on Captiva Island Friday, Sept. 23 and run through Sunday, Sept. 25. Songwriters will perform at Crow’s Nest at Tween Waters, Key Lime Bistro, Doc Ford’s, Mucky Duck, Cantina Captiva, RC Otter’s and Royal Shell “Sorrento.”

New this year is the late night jam, which is scheduled to take place from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Doc Ford’s Saturday, Sept. 24.

“Last year we had a impromptu at the Diamondhead. All the artists wandered over after 10 p.m.,” Auer said.”They (the artists) tried to outdo each other. It was enjoyed by the artists and attendees.”

A schedule and map of the performances can be found at www.islandhopperfest.com.

“This is such a great opportunity to hear the stories behind the songs,” Donlan said. “That is really valuable and exciting for the fans.”

Before the songwriters perform a song, they often share the story of how the song came to be, as well as if any artists picked up their song.

Attendees are encouraged to use the trolley service because of limited parking on Captiva. Auer said there is a transportation link on the VCB website that has a detailed trolley schedule. She said Sandy Stilwell has generously donated the services of her trolly, which is in addition to running the Adventures in Paradise trolley.

The festival will continue in Downtown Fort Myers from Monday, Sept. 26, through Thursday, Sept. 29 for the second year.

“There are a lot of events downtown,” Auer said. “We are trying to extend folks stay. Our goal is to get heads in beds and generate some room nights for the festival, so our partners are getting business in slow times.”

In addition to the free performances, downtown has many ticketed events including a songwriter dinner featuring Even Stevens and Hugh Prestwood at the Barrel Room, 2214 Bay Street, Monday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m.; Parmalee at the Florida Repertory Theatre, 2268 Bay Street, Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m.; a songwriters workshop featuring Frank Myers and Bill LaBounty at the Barrel Room Thursday, Sept. 29, at 11 a.m. and an Island Hopper Sunset Songwriter Cruise with J.C. Cruises, 2313 Edwards Drive Thursday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m.

Auer said Parmalee, who performed at last year’s event, requested to come back.

“For the first time we will be holding an event at Florida Repertory Theatre and that is where the concert will be,” she said.

Also new this year is a sunset cruise aboard JC Cruises, a triple deck paddlewheel that departs from the Downtown Fort Myers yacht basin.

The songwriter workshop, a two hour clinic, was also added to the schedule with some of the most successful songwriters from Nashville.

“They can get mentored by these professional songwriters,” Auer said, adding that attendees will have the opportunity to receive guidance in writing music and lyrics.

The festival will conclude on Fort Myers Beach from Friday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 2.

In addition to Morris’ performance, as well as free performances, a late night jam was also added to the schedule from 10 p.m. to 12 p.m. at Cabana’s at Diamondhead.

“It’s a chance to see a lot of different performers in an hour or two,” Auer said.