VIDEO: Digital Graffiti

Posted In: Destinations, Florida, Video

I’m not much of a “festival” kind of guy. As I’ve written before in this space — believe it or not — I’m an introvert. For me, true bliss is not likely found in NYC. It’s found in BFE. You can have Manhattan. I’ll take camping in the mountains of Wyoming where we’re surrounded by moose and elk. (For some reason, I feel like breaking into the theme from “Green Acres.” But I digress…)

Back to festivals. It’s not that I don’t like people. I enjoy meeting and talking to people very much.

It’s that I don’t like crowds. Being surrounded by large crowds of people for extended periods of time doesn’t feel very liberating. It feels confining. When the crowds get too large, they begin to dictate how fast you move and where you go. That feeling of claustrophobia is sort of “anti-walkabout” in my book.

When I think of “festivals,” my mind jumps to those massive music extravaganzas that are hugely popular every summer. You know the type of festival I am talking about. They feature a few dozen bands, horrible musical acoustics, sweaty dirty mobs of drunken revelers, and a fleet of port-a-potties. One of my goals in life is to minimize time spent in port-a-potties.

So the festival needs to be pretty special to garner my interest. With this in mind, we’ve taken our Airstream to some wonderful festivals over the years. Some festivals, like the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque and the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, are so unique and compelling that they are worth the hassle. Seaside’s wine festival is fun (of course, even a “dentist drill festival” could be fun if enough wine is involved).

Our festival du jour is called Digital Graffiti. It’s billed as the world’s first projection art festival. The event takes place once a year in the town of Alys (pronounced “Alice”) Beach, Florida. Alys Beach is a ridiculously expensive planned community on Florida’s increasingly famous Scenic Highway 30A. Imagine a little Gulf Coast utopia with style and architecture inspired by Bermuda and Antigua, Guatemala.

As of this writing, the town is under construction. What’s already complete is outrageously beautiful. It’s also solid as an anvil. The entire town is “built to fortified standards,” meaning that the build quality is pretty much as high as it gets. There’s not a lot of vinyl siding or rich Corinthian leather. There is a lot of stone and concrete. Furthermore, each “fortified” home is intended to last several hundred years.

We could hold a little engineering and architecture class to discuss the details, but suffice to say that the walls and windows in Alys Beach are designed to withstand a hurricane. That’s rather important if you intend to build a lasting structure along this stretch of Florida coast. Walls are thick slabs of poured concrete that’s painted white. So the overall effect is a pristine white town. There’s nothing else quite like it in the United States, at least not that we have seen.

The idea behind the Digital Graffiti festival is simple and brilliant. The white walls of Alys Beach are a blank canvas. One night per year, that canvas is thoroughly “painted” with a smorgasbord of digital art. The actual artwork of Digital Graffiti varies, but most of it is of an abstract nature. It’s a menagerie of flashing light and vibrant color.

Digital Graffiti is not for art snobs. You don’t need to know your Monet from your Rembrandt. In fact, you don’t need to know much of anything. There’s no agenda. You just wander the gorgeous streets of Alys Beach, perhaps sipping your favorite adult beverage, and take in the different sights.

It’s appropriate for families; there will be no shortage of young kids darting to and fro, squealing with delight. But it’s also appropriate for young adults (or in my case, flabby middle-aged adults) who are seeking nightlife.

The heart of Digital Graffiti is in the Caliza Pool area. The swimming pool in Alys Beach is rumored to have cost more than $15 million to build. Whatever the cost, it’s a rather fantastical place to hold a party. And in this corner of Alys Beach, that’s what Digital Graffiti becomes.

For Kristy and me, this stretch of Florida highway is our home away from home. Although Alys Beach doesn’t offer any camping, there are plenty of options in the area. Grayton Beach and Henderson Beach come to mind.

Like I said, I don’t really like festivals. But this is a good one. It’s busy and lively without being a cattle drive. I don’t even remember seeing any port-a-potties.

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