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Safety Harbor music festival draws national talent

Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda created the Safety Harbor SongFest, this weekend’s celebration of Americana, country, folk, blues, pop and bluegrass. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, which they founded.
Published Mar. 26, 2015

SAFETY HARBOR — If this year's singer-songwriter festival is anything like last year's, just about anything can happen: Spontaneous after-parties. Popup miniconcerts. Lasting friendships.

It's what happens when you take a charming little town and fill it with big-name recording groups and local artisans.

The second annual Safety Harbor SongFest brings more than 20 national touring artists in the Americana, country, folk, blues, pop and bluegrass genres — including multiple Grammy Award winners — to Safety Harbor's Waterfront Park on Tampa Bay this weekend.

We're talking back-to-back performances on two stages as well as those that may spring up randomly on the pier or along Main Street.

"We've got bigger artists this year and they're coming from all over the country — as far away as Oregon," said Todd Ramquist, who created the festival along with Kiaralinda, his partner in love and wildly creative, over-the-top house parties and community endeavors. "We've got Callaghan coming from London."

Tickets are $40 for a weekend pass or $25 for a day. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, founded by the couple. SHAMc, as it is called, is expected to open late this year.

In order to keep up with the anticipated spur-of-the-moment happenings, download the free SHAMc app at the Google Play Store or iPhone App Store.

It all begins today with a 6 to 8 p.m. happening at Syd Entel Galleries as artist, poet, and Grammy-nominated musician Joseph Arthur demonstrates his many talents, simultaneously.

Headlining this year's event is Grammy nominee Shawn Mullins, who takes the stage Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, the Grammy Award-winning Steep Canyon Rangers start pickin' at 5:30 p.m. Yep. They're the bluegrass musicians known to jam with actor/comedian/banjo player Steve Martin.

Other top draws include Grammy Award-winning artist Jim Lauderdale as well as Joe Craven, Willie Sugarcapps, Meiko, David Jacobs-Strain, Seth Walker, Kawehi, Ryan Montbleau, the Vespers and Caroline Kole, a local gal who tours with Reba McEntire.

Saturday, kites will soar, monster bubbles will shimmer and pop; Sunday is a day for circus arts.

Food trucks like Taco Bus, Jimmy's Slider Truck, Maized and Cornfused and Who's Your Dumplin'? will be around to nourish the body while craft beer and wine will feed the soul.

Festival fashion, the "Winged Creatures Collection" by the Garden Fairies, will be showcased in the art and wine tent, Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m.

Ramquist expects about 5,000 people to attend. Two thousand showed up last year.

"Word is getting around that this is a good festival," he said.

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