Safety Harbor Singer Songwriter Festival launches this weekend

Arts crusaders Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist present a new major music fest in Safety Harbor.

Posted by Julie Garisto on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

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Tucked almost out of sight in northeast Pinellas, Safety Harbor offers bayfront views and scenic parks, a quaint Main Street and early 20th century bungalows that line shady, hilly two-lane roads. It's known as a quiet town, but a buzz of new activity has been tinkering with Safety Harbor’s sleepy reputation.

At the waterfront park behind the town’s famous Resort and Spa, the Safety Harbor Singer Songwriter Festival will give North Pinellas its first major concert festival that isn’t strictly a blues or jazz fest — a sprawling, eclectic three-day event with Grammy-winning headliners, food trucks, a fashion show and performance art that should appeal to music lovers of all ages.

Artist/decorating company Beautiful Streamers will provide their dreamy touches, and circus arts performers will twirl and defy gravity.

Phil Madeira
  • Phil Madeira
Headliners include Ben Taylor — son of James Taylor and Carly Simon — at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. The artist’s laid-back but assured vocal might recall his famous dad, but he has taken strides to distance his persona from his Adult Contemporary parents, performing electronically embellished tunes that straddle the line between the traditional and quirky-experimental. Nashville-based musician Phil Madeira — who recently nabbed a Grammy for co-writing Civil Wars’ “From This Valley” — takes the stage Sunday at 12:45. Madeira, like other country-tinged acts on the Singer Songwriter Fest bill, performs with undeniable authenticity. Rock ’n’ roll roots pioneer Webb Wilder plays a little later on Sunday, at 1:15 p.m.

Danielle Ate The Sandwich, a notable performer at this weekends fest.
  • Danielle Ate The Sandwich
One of the most captivating and amusing up-and-coming acts in the lineup, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, can be seen at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday with co-headliner Victoria Vox. Expect old-timey-meets-modern ballads, sassy wit and the vocals of rogue angels. DAtS’s Danielle Anderson can shred a ukulele, too. The young and fierce female duo Granville Automatic is another must-see, and will play a free kickoff event Fri., April 4, in addition to a slot at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

After the fest, the musicians will be playing pop-up shows and late-night showcases throughout the weekend at various locations in downtown Safety Harbor.

Organized by culture crusaders Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist, the Safety Harbor Singer Songwriter Festival will raise funds for the couple’s next major contribution to the town: The Safety Harbor Art and Music Center at 706 Second St. N. Its mission is to promote knowledge of and education in fine arts, music and performing arts.

The yet-to-be-opened SHAMc will comprise a brightly painted 1921 bungalow and a two-story pavilion with 3-by-5-foot mirrored mosaic artworks covering the exterior. The works are contributed by a diverse range of local and visiting artists and are still being implemented. A colorful fence with slats personalized by members of the community surrounds the property. No opening date has been set yet for SHAMc.

Fest organizers Kiaralinda and Todd Ramquist
The pavilion is a shinier and more bedazzled take on Kiaralinda and Ramquist’s colorful, bric-a-brac aesthetic, which enhances the couple’s home, known as Whimzey Land, aka the Bowling Ball House, five blocks away in Safety Harbor. Friends and neighbors have helped decorate and landscape both properties. The house has been featured on HGTV and MTV’s Extreme Cribs, and a slew of other national publications and programs. “It’s an encrusted shrine of all things about our life — and SHAMc will be one too,” Kiaralinda says.

Hosting musicians has become a pastime and passion for Ramquist and Kiaralinda. They’ve brought luminaries like actor/arts activist Jeff Daniels, who performed an under-the-radar show to help raise money for SHAMc, in addition to Michelle Shocked and Black Taxi.

Their guest house across the street, known as Casa Loco, is a Mexican-themed home away from home for visiting musicians and artists, and can be seen in the indie film Chu and Blossom, which recently screened at Gasparilla Film Festival.

Artists performing at the Singer Songwriter Festival will be staying at Casa Loco, too, but the big names will be put up at the Safety Resort and Spa, which offered some rooms in exchange for a sponsorship. Others have been invited into private homes and will be provided goodie bags with dining gift certificates donated by local restaurants — an act of kindness that speaks to the community spirit promoted by Ramquist and Kiaralinda.

To wit, Kiaralinda responds with a touch of sweetness and sass: “We like to share and get the community involved because we like it and it’s fun.”

Safety Harbor Singer-Songwriter Festival takes place Fri.-Sun., April 4-6, at Safety Harbor Waterfront Park, 110 Veterans Memorial Lane, Safety Harbor, with free shows Thursday and Friday at the Safety Harbor Gazebo featuring Rebekah Pulley (Thurs., April 3, 6-9 p.m.), and TJ Weger and The Hummingbirds with Granville Automatic and others (Fri., April 4, 6-9 p.m.). Tickets are $25 per day, $40 for the weekend. Visit safetyharborsingersongwriterfestival.com for a full schedule and playlist of artists performing at the fest or check out a PDF schedule here. For more info on Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, visit safetyharborartandmusiccenter.com.

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