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March 27, 2015
FL Guide

Not only are the island of Sanibel and Captiva known for shelling and wildlife preservation, but also preserves the performing arts.

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 in late September/early October. 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.

Live music in a dinner and club-like setting can be found at many restaurants and establishments across the island, such as 'Tween Waters Inn, Key Lime Bistro, Casa Ybel, George & Wendy's, Traditions on the Beach and Traders Cafe & Store, among others.

The Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater on Periwinkle Way has been entertaining visitors and residents for many years with popular musical and comedy productions with Broadway-quality talent.

BIG ARTS has been providing cultural enrichment and fulfillment to island residents and visitors since 1979. BIG ARTS began when a group of artists dreamed of a cultural center on the island. Today, BIG ARTS members and participants enjoy a wide spectrum of performing and visual arts events, and the community participates in more than 200 educational classes and workshops each year. BIG ARTS Center is located at 900 Dunlop Road.

Visitors looking for a gathering place on the island can stop by the Sanibel Community House on 2173 Periwinkle Way to take a class in painting, yoga, and beading, attend a festival such as the annual Shell Festival, or purchase tickets for a show in an intimate setting.

The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, on 1 Wildlife Drive, is one of 550 refuges across the United States. Named after editorial cartoonist and conservationist Jay Norwood Darling, the refuge features nature trails, excursions, and wildlife programs inside the Education Center for naturalists and families.

Captiva Cruises offers several incredible ways to enjoy dolphin and shelling excursions, and trademark Florida sunset cruises with live music and refreshments aboard their boats departing from McCarthy's Marina on Andy Rosse Lane.



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