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Five 2014 Florida Festivals Worth a Road Trip

When you live in a warm climate like Florida, any attempt at creating a festival frenzy need not be confined to the summertime. In fact, the next couple of months, this sunny state will experience a new spate of music festivals, giving a welcome respite to all those on the opposite side of the Mason Dixon Line who are suffering from a particularly harsh winter.

Granted, Florida is a big state, and those of us who live in its southernmost fringes sometimes feel a bit isolated due to our distance from Orlando, Tampa, and points beyond. Even so, when there are so many great gatherings that are realistically within driving distance, it's worth gassing up the car and setting out on a sonic adventure. Here are five -- one per month from now to May -- in chronological order, worth the trek.

30A Songwriters Festival

January 17 to 19

30asongwritersfestival.com

If you are pondering such an expedition, it would be best to get your plans in gear quickly. The first of these gatherings -- and the one with the largest roster of performers -- takes place this weekend.

With 20 clubs and venues of varying sizes located in various seaside enclaves in the vicinity of Fort Walton Beach, the 30A Songwriters Festival boasts a dazzling array of artists who rarely make the journey this far south. Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright, John Gorka, Ani DiFranco, Matthew Sweet, Jim Lauderdale, Mary Gauthier, Webb Wilder, Don Dixon, Marti Jones, and Marshall Chapman are but a few of the bigger names included among the 150-plus performers scheduled to appear. And with the promise of intimate venues, beautiful scenery, an array of gourmet dining options, and a cast of participants befitting some sort of spectacle, it deserves to be considered one the preferred destinations for the dedicated festivalgoer.

Don't let a 12-hour drive or the cost of an airplane ticket to Fort Walton Beach discourage you. Three-day passes cost a mere $190. Pick up tickets here.

Virginia Key Grassroots Festival

February 20 to 23

virginiakeygrassroots.com

Although this is a lot closer to home, Virginia Key can sometimes seems like it's a world away, with its natural beaches and a loose, sunny vibe sure to appeal to your hedonistic instincts.

Donna the Buffalo, a talented group of players who blend an Americana approach with populist precepts, curates this particular event that combines outfits of the jam band variety with indigenous talent that also maintains that looser groove. Del McCoury and Jim Lauderdale are featured among the national headliners, with local bands SOSOS, Locos Por Juana, the Spam Allstars, and Afrobeta also sharing the spotlight.

And hey, there's no flight necessary.

Prices begin at $25 for single-day Thursday tickets to $100 for the full four days. Visit grassrootsstore.org.

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Lee Zimmerman

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