59th Florida Folk Festival, May 27 – 29, White Springs

The Florida Folk Festival, the state’s largest and oldest (and one of America’s largest and oldest) folk festivals takes place Memorial Day weekend at the 250-acre Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center in White Springs. As it has since 1953, folk music is the festival’s focus; and this year’s headliners are Grammy-winner John Anderson and Quincy, Florida native Billy Dean—plus a dozen more musicians and bands will be performing throughout the three-day event. In addition to music the festival features local-culture crafts displays and demonstrations, plus superb Florida and Southern cuisine.

A bit of Stephen Foster trivia (excepted from Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition): In 1935, the Florida state legislature chose Stephen Foster’s melody “Old Folks at Home,” better known as “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River,” as the official state song. Ironically, Foster never once set foot in the state of Florida, much less on the banks of the Suwannee. (It’s likely that, except for a single trip to New Orleans, Foster never ventured south of Cincinnati, Ohio.) In his original draft of the song, which was ultimately published in 1851, he had written, “Way down upon the Pee Dee River,” but it just didn’t ring true for him. (The Pee Dee River is in South Carolina, and he had never been there either.) With the aid of an atlas and the assistance of his brother, Morrison, Stephen tried inserting a variety of river names into his song, including Yazoo. None sounded right until he hit on Suwannee.

Bruce Hunt

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