Florida Folk Festival Stories

The thing about the Florida Folk Festival is that I have been singing there for more than forty years. I have been selling tie-dye there for seven years. No matter what happens, it makes me think of other years and other happenings. This leads to conversations like the following:

“It sure is hot.”
“Yeah, but not as hot as that one year.”
“You mean the year we walked down to the Suwannee River and sat in it with all our clothes on?”
“And then we walked back to the campground…”
“And by the time we got there, our clothes were bone dry again.”
“Yep. It’s hot this year, but it’s not that hot.”

We have a story like that for every situation. If it’s chilly, we talk about the year we were camping in a small trailer with one blanket per person and it got so cold, my Mom, my sister and I ended up in one bed so we could stack the blankets. If someone skins a knee on the playground, we remember the time my niece had to be rushed to the nearest emergency room because of a wrist injury during a game on the open field that preceded the playground.

The campground itself has been the source of endless stories. It’s a landscaped wonder now, with two modern comfort stations that provide flush toilets and hot showers all festival long. Old-timers remember the years when you had to get up before dawn if you wanted a chance at a hot shower, and the septic tank backed up the first day of the festival. The pump-out guy used to camp behind the bath house in the old days, and he stayed busy all weekend long.

Even older old-timers remember when the campground was just a field with one street light, one water spigot and a port-o-let. My children can all repeat the story of the time I caught my class ring on the door of the port-o-let and it tried to yank my finger off. My finger was fine, but there’s still a dent in my class ring. The kids have all seen it, and they’ve heard the story countless times, along with countless other festival stories. They’ve added some of their own.

Every year adds something to our personal collection of Florida Folk Festival lore and this year has been no exception. It was already the year The Makley Family became the Makley Duo after unforeseen circumstances (including emergency surgery) led to cancellations by three group members.
You’d think that would be enough for one year, but it seems that was only the beginning.

Friday morning, the first day of the festival, my daughter and I loaded the things we needed for our day into my car and started to head up to the vendor area. We had barely pulled out of our campsite when we heard a sound. A mysterious sound, but a familiar sound. I stopped the car and my daughter got out to check. Oh, yeah…that was the sound of a flat tire.

Flat Tire

Flat Tire


We shifted all our necessary items into my husband’s van and took that up to the tie-dye booth, leaving my husband to deal with the flat tire. He enlisted the help of my brother-in-law and by the time I returned to the campground at the end of the day, I had a new tire. Things were looking up.

Saturday, we took my car up to the tie-dye booth and had a relatively uneventful day until about seven o’clock, when we were closing up the booth and listening to the last act of the evening on the Old Marble Stage. Suddenly, we could no longer hear the act on the Old Marble Stage. The power had gone out. We went back to the campground and found that the power was out there, too. We heard it was out, not only in the whole Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, but in the whole town of White Springs, where the park is located. Someone had crashed a truck into a very important power pole. A park employee, who was putting up signs at the comfort station saying it was closed due to power outage, told us they were hoping to have the power back on by eight-thirty. I couldn’t wait that long and I’m not a guy, so I hiked out to the port-o-let by the North gate of the park. This one did not try to yank my finger off. Of course, I was not wearing a class ring at the time.

I imagine the primitive campers were feeling quite smug until a little after nine o’clock, when the power was restored and a huge cheer erupted from the campground. Our refrigerator was back on and so was the air conditioner in our little blue teardrop trailer. Things were looking up.

Sunday was bright and hot, but not as hot as Saturday and certainly not as hot as that one year. We had a busy, fun day and were starting to pack up the tie-dye when we noticed dark clouds gathering in the sky. Instead of folding up the T-shirts and packing them in bins, we rushed to pull everything into the tent and zip up the side panels. Then we ran to the car and drove back to the campground in a heavy downpour, praying the tie-dye would be all right until morning.

It was all right, but it was all a bit damp, which is why I have racks of T-shirts in my living room right now.

Tie-dye in the Living Room

Tie-dye in the Living Room


It would have been okay to start folding them today, but the air conditioner in my house stopped working the night we got home from the festival and the repairman couldn’t come until this afternoon. Folding up the tie-dye is a big chore and we’re not going to do it in an overheated house.

The repairman just left and the air conditioner is functioning again. Things are looking up.

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7 thoughts on “Florida Folk Festival Stories

  1. Pam

    Thanks for the insight of what goes on at this festival. And I’m learning more about you than I knew. Of course, I know about the tie-dying; but I didn’t know you sing in a trio at this annual event. How cool is that??

    Sad to say, I’ve lived in Jax all my life and have never attended this gathering. I think I’ll add it to my bucket list. Sounds like fun!

    Reply
  2. releaf1954 Post author

    Thanks for reading, Pam. That trio started at the festival when I was still in high school and grew over the years into a quartet and a quintet — even an octet when we added the next generation for a song or two. You should come next year. If my sister and her daughter (and my daughter, Emily) can make it, you will hear yodeling in five part harmony. Now, that’s something you’re not going to hear at a Chorale concert! 🙂

    Reply

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