It is hard to believe that the month of May has arrived. May is a month filled with many “M’s”: Mother’s Day, May Day, Memorial Day, all occur during the month of May. The Florida Folk Festival, I believe celebrates its 67th birthday this year over Memorial Day weekend. During the days of my childhood, and for many years, the Folk Festival took place the first weekend in May. Everyone in our small town of White Springs, Florida, eagerly anticipated the Florida Folk Festival with folks from all over the nation visiting our small town and sharing their talents on the Old Marble Stage.
Local church groups and individuals put the “big and little pots” on and began cooking up chicken and rice (to write it the way north Floridians pronounce it — chicken “purr low”… pialau), hopping john, chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, corn on the cob, sweet potato pies, barbeque, and so much, much more.
It was a time when the small town of White Springs vibrated with music, dancing, the fragrances of wonderful food, the sights and sounds and greetings of old friends, and the opportunity to make new friends. For many years, school groups were a huge part of the Florida Folk Festival, performing, fundraising and volunteering.
Well, much has changed over a half-century that I recall. Some of it came back to me recently at the Easter Sunrise Service, when a childhood classmate greeted me, and I had not seen her in many years. Pam Thomas Curtis grew up in White Springs, and she was in my class until I finished the eighth grade at then-South Hamilton Elementary School. Pam was very artistic. She would paint, draw; very talented. I always envied those talents, as I found it difficult to draw a straight line with a ruler. You know you are challenged when you make a trip to “Painting with a Twist” and the coordinator has to help you with your painting. Well, the memory that rushed to me when I saw Pam, was a half-century ago at the Old Marble Stage, she was my dance partner during a folk dance we performed for the audience under the direction of longtime White Springs and Hamilton County educator, the late Miss Mildred Shiver. We had a good time, and we prepared weeks and months in advance for that event. Many mothers of classmates worked long and hard sewing costumes for our performance. It was a big event in our lives, and it created memories. It is those kinds of memories I seem to hold on to, and I wonder about children today. I don’t recall when I learned fractional operations or who taught me decimal operations, but I do remember events like the Florida Folk Festival, and, from my years in education at South Hamilton, I remember the wonderful groups we had perform at the festival, Ruby Williams, Earnestine Johnson, and Barbara Edwards with their children dancing the Maypole for school programs and, at the Festival. Delores Howell and her groups singing and dancing at the Festival. Great memories for me, and I hope for them.
By the way, Pam went on to utilize her artistic talent and became the chief graphic designer for many years at Santa Fe Community College near Gainesville.
Each community in our area has “something” which stamps it, indemnifies it in some way: To me, the Blueberry Festival does that for Wellborn, Pioneer Day is such an event in Mayo, Christmas on the Square is that kind of event for Live Oak, Branford’s Fourth of July Event is outstanding, and the town seems to shimmer in the summer heat as the cool waters of the Suwannee and its many springs not far from the heart of Branford add so much to the characteristic of Branford, Florida, for Jasper, it is the annual Rodeo and for White Springs, unmistakably is the Florida Folk Festival.
Well, before closing this week, I wish a Happy Belated 90th Birthday to my good friend, Mr. Rich (R.J.) Tennis. R.J. and his wife, the late Ruth Tennis, were such viable, wonderful volunteers for many years with the Stephen Foster Citizens Support Organization. R.J. was honored by family and friends with a surprise birthday celebration this past Saturday, April 27, at his residence near White Springs. The event was hosted by his daughter, Vicky, and a “good time was had by all.”
Well, wild honeysuckle is winding along fences and any place it can wind, sending out a fragrance that is unmistakably “home” mixed with the citrusy and unmistakable fragrance of magnolias, while the roadsides are carpeted in golden wild coreopsis, and deep pastel colored phlox. Get out and enjoy the sights, sounds, fragrances, foods and hug the unmistakable wonder that is “our home” here Around the Banks of the Suwannee. Eat a piece of toast slathered with mayhaw jelly and steaming cup of coffee, or drink a glass of sweet iced tea and eat some boiled peanuts, dip your toes into the waters of the Suwannee River and thank God you were born in the United States or America and thank Him again you were born in the best part of the United States of America.
If you want to plunder, come over to White Springs on Saturday morning, Saturday, May 4, 2019, and plunder through the Yard Sale Items at White Springs United Methodist Church from 8 a.m. till 1 p.m. in the church fellowship hall. While in White Springs, enjoy breakfast at Fat Belly’s or down at Family Traditions.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.