lorida Folk Festival, Steven Foster State Park
With Steven Foster’s songs bouncing around in my head, Way down upon the Suwannee River, My Old Kentucky Home, and Jeanie with the Light brown hair, I arrived for the first day of the Florida Folk Festival. My touring of the local area done, I was ready to settle down for some serious grinning and pickin.
There are stages set up all over the park with food vendors and craft vendors interspersed throughout the area. I took my bike, as many others did who have been going to this for years. Didn’t need to lock the bike up at each stop as Folk music type don’t steal bikes. Friday’s crowd was light and there were seats available at all the venues. Friday is always my favorite day at the Festival. By the time I got there, it was almost lunch time and the “Church Ladies” food vending area was all set up. Why wait. I listened to one father/son duo singing all original songs and then I went for the food. The Church Ladies area consists of about 6 church groups, all run by black women who cook up the best southern food around. From collard greens (really not a favorite of mine), beans, cornbread, okra, and other southern favorites. Only one booth was selling fried chicken, as I think all the talk about healthier cooking has sunk in even with the Church Ladies. I opted for a chicken and rice dish one day and seafood gumbo the next.
Listened to a couple of story tellers in the tower (in the center of the park where they have the largest carillon pipes in the world). Only problem, the square, domed, all marble hall has an echo that would destroy the best of singers or story tellers. It did. I stuck it out as long as I could, the place is air-conditioned after all. The stories were good, what I could hear of them, hear of them, hear of them. Opps, sorry the echo is still with me.
The next day, I was to join John and Margie for a hike with an outdoors group to the Big Shoals rec. area. But before we went on the hike, the small hamlet of White Springs was having a old fashioned street sale. Where they block off one street and everyone sets up tables and sells all their used items, crafts and chickens, geese, and rabbits (for pets and eatin). One country farmer told me he had some rabbits already dressed and ready for cookin. I didn’t take him up on the offer. I talked to a cowboy who had about 10 saddles for sale and were they beauties. Used of course, but he liked to buy and sell them, having an eye for the best of them. Margie and John bought a western vase, one in the shape of a swan, a watermelon and some jewelry. They’re still in the collecting stage of life. Seems we collect things for half our lives, then spend the other half getting rid of them.
The hike was fun, joined by about 4 other hikers. The Big Shoals is the only rapids in Florida. It was all of a two mile hike for some of us, the others were going a full 6 miles. Since we needed to get back to the Florida Folk Festival, our group did the 2 mile hike. In hind site, we probably should have done the hike on a different day, as by the time we got to the festival, we were all over heated and exhausted. It being another day of 90’s and high high humidity.
Later in the day (after I had went back to the camper to chill out, literally) I was back in the park to search for my friends and hear some good music. A few afternoon clouds had formed, but I thought it would be one of our Florida 15 minute showers and be gone. Wrong. It was a hoe down stompin gulley washer that lasted a good two hours. I was standing under the Church Ladies food vending area. A heavy sturdy steel beamed open air building with metal roof. The rain came pounding down and one could hardly hear to talk. After about an hour of pounding rain, lighting and thunder, suddenly we all looked up in frozen shocked disbelief as we saw this huge metal structure begin to abruptly sway and rattle back and forth. Now the beams holding up the roof are easily a foot and a half wide I beams at the bottom tapering to about maybe a foot wide at the top. Not a gust of wind came along with this phenomenon. Just a violent shaking of the whole structure, and then it was over. We all let out a breath as the rain continued to come down in buckets.
I ran between raindrops to another tent pavilion to hear some banjo and guitar pickin (yes, they continued to play music throughout the entire rain storm, each tent pretty much having a captive audience) before finally giving up and heading back to the camper. That was pretty much it for the festival that day.
The last day of the Festival, I heard a couple of singers I’ll keep track of.
Edward Cotton, a seasoned performer with a good personality and great folk songs
Amy Carol, a black singer doing mostly original songs and lives in St Augustine
Mindy Simmons, a true entertainer, fun and has a large following where ever she goes. Did the song “Halleluiah” and had the audience give a standing ovation.