KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – The five-day Key West Songwriters Festival wraps up Sunday night and when it is completed, more than 180 performing songwriters will have staged more than 50 shows.

More than 2,000 people gathered on Key West’s Duval Street Saturday night for a “main stage” highlight concert starring chart-topping RCA recording artist Sara Evans. A country favorite with seven critically acclaimed albums, Evans also is a former “Dancing With the Stars” contestant and the title tune of her “Slow Me Down” album was named one of 2013’s 10 best singles by “Billboard Magazine.”

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“I co-write a lot of my own songs, so it’s really important to me to honor the songwriters,” said Evans just before taking the stage. “I always say they’re like the unsung heroes.

Sara Evans

“People don’t realize what it takes to make a great lyric and that’s, to me, where it all starts — with the lyric,” Evans said.

The five-day festival also featured stars including Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founding member Jeff Hanna, crossover country-pop singer Rebecca Lynn Howard, Texas songwriter/entertainer Robert Earl Keen and recent Grammy Award winner Kacey Musgraves.

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“I think the songwriters enjoy being in Key West for the same reason that the writers were drawn here previously, like the (Ernest) Hemingways and the Tennessee Williams,” said festival founder and director Charlie Bauer. “It opens up their creativity while they’re here, and they can relax and get out of the big city.”

The festival benefits Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative, a rehabilitation program for service members with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.

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