Old Folks At Home – Stephen Foster State Park
Our little twist in the road landed us for a few days in the small town of White Springs, FL . This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, not only because the weather went south on us again, but because we discovered a really cool area. It introduced us to Stephen Foster State Park, a brilliant, crazy and rather fascinating little corner of Florida.
This is where the Old Folks live and I’m not just talking about snowbirders, but about the actual Florida State Song “Old Folks at Home“. Stephen Foster is the man who composed it and despite never visiting the place, his memory and ~200 of his other songs are eulogized right here.
This place is literally a 247-acre wonderland with trails, nature, cultural events, and museum. To top it all off, and throw things right off the charts so to speak, the developers decided to build a 97-bell Carillon Tower (the world’s largest tubular bell instrument no less) which welcomes visitors with a selection of Stephen Foster’s most popular tunes. These were the “church bells” we heard when we entered the park and they’re just brilliant. I mean, how can you not love something that’s just so obviously over-the-top?
Besides the tower, this spot is also a bit of a musical magnet in other ways. The park hosts the annual Florida Folk Festival (on Memorial Day Weekend) and has done so since 1953, and for the hands-on folks, it offers week-end retreats with instruction in banjos and dulcimers.
The other cool attraction is the Craft Square. Here some of the history of Florida is preserved with a traditional blacksmith’s shop, weavers looms, pottery works, gemstone shop and much, much more. The Craft Square hosts a rotation of artists from which you can take classes or enjoy a meet and greet. It was grey, dull day and most of the artists were gone when we went but the very friendly interpretive guide took the time to show us around the shops and crafts.
All in all this is definitely a bit of a hidden gem. Thanks to serendipity we made the stop, and thanks to poor weather we got to explore all the inner workings of the place. With bells singing “Oh Susanna” I’ll send you off to the next chapter of our little journey (click the video link below):