Memorial Day Weekend, the final weekend of May, has historically been given to the Florida Folk Festival. Held at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, far north in the state, this was the festival’s 70th year. My family and I have participated almost as long as we’ve lived in the far south of the state.
In 2011, Carnival met Japan in a lively dance party
The Festival usually affords me a time to wear my folklorist hat, which I earned as an academic long ago. People who maintain some sort of traditional culture come at the invitation of the State Folklorist to demonstrate and display their heritage. Sometimes, like in 2016, I was cast in the role of “folk” and asked to demonstrate Jewish food traditions associated with Passover!
Most if not all states across the nation support a State Folklorist, an individual who spends the year working with people living in their state who keep up some aspects of traditional culture. In our rapidly moving lifestyles, individuals who treasure their heritage – whether ethnic, occupational, regional, whatever – are identified and documented. Of course, change exists within tradition; it is not stuck in time and space and change is recognized.
Our state folklore program supports an annual survey that focuses on some specific topic. It also supports both recognition of excellence with the Heritage Awards and the continuity of tradition with the Apprenticeship program. The Folklife Area at the Festival is one of many performance spaces around the park. Here, individuals identified during the survey and the previous year’s masters and apprentices are highlighted. One part of the huge tent is given to displays, another is alive all day for three days with performances and discussions.
This year’s survey (rudely interrupted by the Covid) was a continuation of The Elements. Traditions associated with water was the theme for the statewide research. Next year, traditions associated with fire will be identified and documented. Several apprenticeships from the past two years were also present.
Fernando Langoria, originally from Mexico spoke about the shrimp and other nets he learned to make from his grandfather.
Others in the tent demonstrated fly tying for catching fish.
Brian Zepeda, a Seminole artist whose beadwork often represents the watery wonders.
Greek dancers represented the heritage immigrants from Kalymnos brought to Tarpon Springs on the Gulf Coast.
Two Heritage award winners demonstrated their skills – Haiqiong Deng who was recognized for playing the guqin.
Liliane Louis spoke about Haitian folk medicine.
Like any other festival, food is a feature attendees look forward to. Constant Companion and I prefer the offerings of members of local black churches near the Old Marble Stage. This year, only one church, Community Revival Center, was represented. They offered local fish: smoked mullet and fried mullet dinners. Yes, Constant Companion and our friend and fellow folklorist, Martha Davis, enjoyed.
And … wouldn’t you know, they followed me … the octopuses! Somehow I just cannot evade them …
Once again, our family looks forward to next year’s Folk Festival and learning more about diverse traditions from all over the state. And maybe more octupuses, too …
This is the Florida that doesn’t show up in headlines, but should. Great piece, Annette!
Thanks so much for reading. The Festival is so great every year