When the sun sets on Thursday, Nov. 30, another Atlantic hurricane season will be in the books, and the Coast Is Clear Festival will kick off the high season in Key West with a weekend of cultural events throughout Old Town. This year will mark a return to the roots of the annual celebration that started in 2017 after Hurricane Irma ravaged the Lower Keys, then took big steps and was thrust onto the national map the past two years thanks in part to a partnership between Coast Projects and the Key West Art & Historical Society.
“The goal for the weekend — from the very beginning — has been to celebrate the end of a tough stretch on the island (slow and stormy season) through a series of cultural events, so locals can look forward to brighter days, when the ‘coast is clear,’” said founder Billy Kearins of Coast Projects. “The past two years were amazing and we took ambitious steps to scale the festival, but looking back, realized that small and intimate events were more the speed we were looking for.”
This year’s program — which runs from Thursday, Nov. 30 to Sunday, Dec. 3 — includes five nighttime ticketed events, plus multiple free shows daily at Green Parrot, and one sandlot baseball tournament, which is open to the public, on Saturday, Dec. 2 at Bayview Park.
The Nov. 30 main event is a film screening, Q&A, and live music set by Scott Ballew of Austin, Texas, who directed the new short documentary, “All That Is Sacred,” which centers around a Key West creative crew from the 1970s that includes Tom McGuane, Jimmy Buffett and Jim Harrison among others. The screening starts at 6 p.m. at Tropic Cinema.
Friday, Dec. 1 is an evening in Bahama Village, where Cayman Smith-Martin hosts the Blue Heaven Rendezvous at 6 p.m. — a tribute concert for his good family friend, the late, great Jimmy Buffett. And at 8 p.m., down the block at the American Legion Hall, 803 Emma St., catch a co-headline bill when Nashville’s Rayland Baxter and Athens’ Futurebirds take the stage and breathe new life into the iconic old dancehall.
Saturday, Dec. 2, starting at 10 a.m. will feature a series of sandlot baseball games at Bayview Park to showcase Key West’s rich baseball history in a fun and semi-competitive atmosphere with teams from Austin and Nashville making the trip to play Key West’s own Old Town Coast. Later that night, California’s John Craigie and New Orleans’ Handmade Moments bring fans back to the American Legion for another show.
Finally, on Sunday, Dec. 3, the California collaboration of John Craigie and Rainbow Girls will serenade a small gathering of festival attendees for a post-yoga live music set in the backyard at the Key West Yoga Sanctuary on Fleming Street.
Throughout the weekend, festival partner and sponsor Green Parrot will stick to its time-tested three sets of music on each night starting with the 5:30 p.m. soundcheck, but the slots will all include artists and collaborative sets from the world class lineup of Coast Is Clear bands.
The Parrot will also be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, so kick things off there on Thursday, Nov. 30, with local band The Skank, who will also close the weekend with a collaborative jam at Soundcheck on Sunday, Dec. 3.
Tickets for the five main events can be purchased individually or with a full weekend pass. All shows have limited tickets still available for sale. Visit www.coastisclearfest.com or @coastisclearfest on Instagram.