Florida Folk Festival at White Springs

The Florida Folk Festival Experience

This visit to the Florida Folk Festival is the first time I have gone with the intention of writing about it. I thought before I left that this would influence my experience, and it has.

Some of the less pleasant things that occurred have an emotional distance they might not have had. And the pleasant events are slightly magnified because I get to write about them.

Bad stuff: very minor. This is the first time I have not gotten a parking pass that lets me in to the performing areas. That would be a Gold Pass. I was given a Pink Pass. I am relying on the shuttle transportation much more and that has erased the inconvenience.

Looking back on the weekend as a whole, the shuttles are so many and so convenient, they removed the inconvenience of the more remote parking space. One more example of how you think things are worse, and maybe they are not.

The other hard thing was the rain on Sunday. Not all day, but a lot. Crowds were thinned out already from fear of Alberto. Then the vendors pulled out with all the delicious food they make, interesting crafts they offer.

Crystal Beach String Band Plays Fiddle Tunes

Crystal Beach String Band (CBSB) plays on the Marble Stage
Crystal Beach String Band (CBSB) plays at the Florida Folk Festival on the Marble Stage

My group, the Crystal Beach String Band turned in a good performance early on Saturday, on the Will Mclean stage. One member of our audience was effusive in his praise. Our leader, Sharon was happy. When Sharon is happy, everybody’s happy.

The next day we played at a different stage, the Old Marble Stage, the original venue of the Florida Folk Festival. The high point for our guitar player, Rick, was where he gets to play the head for Minor Swing as a quote in the original tune, Small Swig, which could have been included in my favorites list.

Sunday was very rainy by mid-day. By the afternoon’s performances, we were down to performers, family members and a few never-give-up fans. Still respectable sized audiences.

The Dance of the Orange Dinosaurs
The Dance of the Orange Dinosaurs

During a brief respite from the rain, a group of orange dinosaurs came by to dance during Crucial Eddy Cotton’s performance. He had predicted sexy dancers at the beginning, but he meant to say T-Rexy dancers.

Folk Life Means Many Cultures

I spent part of the afternoon at the Folk Life pavilion and saw a band of African musicians playing unusual instruments. Well, the drums were not very different, but there was a stringed instrument that had a very large gourd at the bottom. The strings faced the performer who played them using his thumbs with a harp-like diatonic sound. It was rich and melodious.

A workshop in harmony fiddling with Deb Gilman
A workshop in harmony fiddling at the Florida Folk Festival  with Deb Gilman

I got to sit in with several jams and workshops for extra fun playing in a no pressure spot. One was a complete surprise. Just walking towards the Saturday afternoon gig which was less than fulfilling, I saw a jam circle and was invited to join. Old time tunes. I love old time tunes.

Leaning in to hear a tune when it's raining hard
Leaning in to hear a tune when it’s raining hard

The last such event was a workshop scheduled with me as leader. I thought no one would be left at 4 o’clock and I was almost right. When I got to the workshop area two colleagues were there from the previous workshop. Nobody else showed up so we played a few tunes. The rain was so loud we leaned way forward to hear each other. Even that was not much help. 

First Time Visitors Like the Florida Folk Festival

I talked informally with two people who were first timers. They expressed happy enthusiasm at so many acts and choices. Many people who are there like that aspect, I think. Old timers like me get a little sideways at having to choose between two acts that we would go to and are playing at the same time.

One of the people was a Nicolas from Tarpon Springs, a small town that neighbors Palm Harbor, where I live. He was featured in a performance on the “oudi.” Wikipedia calls that an oud.  He described it as an instrument with six pairs of strings. comparing it to a violin, because of the neck length and a guitar, by the manner of playing with a pick.

My first time at this event was in 1976. I’ve been to it many times. Sometimes I just let it go by without attending. Whether I will be there next year….Who knows? Maybe it depends on how the CBSB is shaping up with new material. I don’t care much for playing with a band that never practices and does the same songs every year. OK, just grumpy me.

If I do choose to go, I’ll announce that somehow and invite you to take it in. I don’t believe it’s ever been rainy two years in a row. Could be a wonderful experience for you.

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