Posted by: Barbara Evanhoe | November 9, 2010

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

Whew! That’s quite a big name for a state park, but after visiting there last Sunday afternoon, we decided that the place certainly lives up to its name.

The quaint town of White Springs, Florida, less than five minutes from our campground, hosts the entrance to the Folk Culture Center, along with just about every amenity you could wish for in a little town (Wal Mart excluded, yeah!)

After a leisurely drive through town, taking in the library, antique stores, bar, diner, hardware, auto parts store, Dollar General, post office, gas station, grocery store that butchers its own fresh meat, and more churches per capita than a big city, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the Stephen Foster State Park.

The minimal fee of just $5 per car, provides admission to the Stephen Foster Museum, Carillon Tower, Craft Square where local folk artists demonstrate their talents on weekends and during special events, hiking trails, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding and bicycling. There are gorgeous campsites and riverside cabins in the park, for those who wish to stay in the area for more than a day.

Every Memorial Day weekend, the park hosts the Florida Folk Festival, three days of celebrating Florida’s cultural heritage with music, dance, folk arts and food. The festival has been held every year since 1953 – more than 20 years prior to the first Walnut Valley Festival, which many of our friends in the midwest are familiar with.

The Stephen Foster museum is housed in a building that looks like an old southern mansion. Once inside, you will see intricate dioramas complete with steamships moving down the river, musicians playing instruments and dancing, and people working the fields.

Each diorama depicts the theme of one of Stephen Foster’s songs. You will learn the life history of Stephen Foster, who – interestingly – was actually a northerner who became a “southern son” through his music. There are also a number of antique pianos displayed in the museum. I will write about the von Janko’ keyboard in a future post.

You will always know what time it is while you are in the park, as the tubular bells of the Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon play three of his songs on the even numbered hours, after chiming the customary notes on the hour, quarter hour and half hour.

The bell chimes are also audible throughout the White Springs area, and yesterday we could keep track of the time while we were fishing on the Suwannee River at our campground! The Carillon itself is deserving of its own post, so check back soon for more on this subject.

Anyone who is planning a trip to Florida, and who prefers the beauty of nature and learning about local culture to the craziness of Disneyworld, should add the Stephen Foster State Park to their list of places to see…and while you are there, come spend some time with us!

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