Last year, the pandemic silenced Tallahassee’s annual celebration of literature and lyrics, but Word of South returns to Cascades Park this year on April 10 and 11. Acclaimed musicians and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors descend on the state’s capitol to put the power of words on display in live performances. While authors and recording artists from around the country will grace the stage, we’re particularly excited for some of the Sunshine State locals who will be making an appearance. Here are 10 Floridian acts to look out for at this year’s festival.
Flamingo readers know this Florida Man well, considering he’s recently penned zany Sunshine State stories for us about Ross Allen the reptile wrangler, the godfather of greyhound racing and daring dames hunting down pythons in the Everglades. The award-winning author of Oh, Florida and Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther has made a name for himself over the years by skillfully capturing the bizarre nature of our state with a drop of wry humor and plenty of tact. Explore all things freaky Florida with Pittman on the Midtown Reader Stage at 3 p.m. on Sunday along with musical interludes by folk musician Del Sugg.
The last time we caught up with Tallahassee hip-hop, soul singer Royce Lovett, he was dishing about his time on NBC’s The Voice, the depth behind his lyrics and why he risks being vulnerable in front of thousands of people. Now, Word of South goers have a chance to experience this vulnerability in person when he takes the Amphitheater stage on Sunday evening. Listen for his upbeat new single Good Morning—you’ll want to make it your new alarm clock—and maybe even hear some of the stories behind his songs.
Wielding a sharp wit and a healthy dose of Southern charm, Diane Roberts has penned many books about the things she loves and loathes about her home state, from her family’s deep Florida roots to the history of the state’s first settlers to infamous college football rivalries. Roberts also brings her candid critiques to the pages of Flamingo in her Capital Dame column, which has appeared in every issue. Festivalgoers can expect an entertaining talk heavy on both substance and satire from the eighth-generation Floridian who will appear alongside political strategist Rick Wilson on the Midtown Reader Stage Sunday evening.
Ron Sachs and Gay Webster-Sachs
Tallahassee power couple Ron Sachs, CEO and founder of Sachs Media Group, and Gay Webster-Sachs, a mental health counselor, deconstruct their latest book, The Secret in the Clouds, Saturday afternoon on the Flamingo Magazine Stage. The delightfully illustrated children’s book follows the journey of a little girl who lost a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic and how she learns to find joy in the aftermath. The imaginative storytelling and beautiful watercolor artwork guide young readers through grief and loss in the context of the pandemic.
You may remember the Currys from our Spring 2020 issue, when we first discovered their Florida-fide harmonies. This trio of relatives have found a way to channel their familial connection into a Americana folk sound that captivates audiences from the Panhandle oyster bars where they cut their teeth to the Word of South stage. This year, find them at the Down South House and Home Stage on Saturday afternoon, and be sure to listen for songs from their latest album This Side of the Glass.
Yolanda Franklin isn’t one to mince words when it comes to detailing the Black experience, which is exactly what makes her poetry so provocative and powerful. Hear this Tallahassee-born poet explore race and gender in the South through her debut collection of poems Blood Vinyls on the Midtown Reader stage Saturday afternoon.
Bob and Gail Knight
Tallahassee natives and FSU alumni Bob and Gail Knight spearheaded the graduation photography market with their now 40-year-old multimillion-dollar company. The entrepreneurial couple spilled all in their 2019 memoir, Married to It. Word of South attendees won’t want to miss the Knights heartfelt, albeit tongue-in-cheek, story detailing their business, their marriage and building a healthy family life. The Knights are paired with writer and producer Eric Eggers on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on the Midtown Reader Stage.
Singer-songwriter Allison Clarke’s melodic voice melds with her catchy guitar licks to create soulful music that captures the laid-back Florida lifestyle. Clarke has spent years shaping her sound at music festivals and Nashville songwriter rounds, and now Word of South goers can experience her moving melodies for themselves on Saturday evening at the Flamingo Magazine stage. Listen out for the heartwarming ballads from her latest EP, Live Oak, where she returns to her roots and childhood memories in her hometown
Jump and jive to the jazzy tunes of two-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Scotty Barnhart. The internationally acclaimed professor of jazz trumpet at FSU and director of the Count Basie Orchestra will be joining celebrated New Orleans jazz trumpeter Wendell Brunious, as well as a plethora of renowned jazz musicians, to tear up the Club Downunder Stage Sunday afternoon.
Sharp-witted political strategist Rick Wilson has never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers. His political commentary and insight have paved the way for his infamous 30-year career in politics and journalism. Wilson is joining forces with Flamingo columnist Diane Roberts Sunday night on the Midtown Reader Stage. With plenty of sardonic humor and pointed takes between them, this is a pair we can’t wait to see.
All photography courtesy of Word of South
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