WHITE SPRINGS — The Florida Folk Festival began with the music: It was 1953, and Pete Seeger and the Weavers had had a big hit recently with Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” Folk music was exploding with acoustic guitar, coffee houses, banjos, beatniks and sing-alongs.
Sixty-some years later, the Florida Folk Festival is still held every Memorial Day weekend, and you’re sure to hear plenty of folk music. But the event has broadened to celebrate Florida’s land, people and diverse cultural heritage.
The Florida Folk Festival is held annually on Memorial Day weekend on the banks of the historic Suwannee River at Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park in White Springs, and it is ranked among the top 20 festivals in the southeast.
In addition to a full schedule of performances, you’ll find plenty to amuse and educate.
The festival focuses on traditional crafts — everything from split rail fences to henna tattoos.
And the food is not the same-as-everywhere festival food. Look for blue crab burritos, Jamaican patties, shrimp gumbo or Beulah Baptist Church’s chicken and dumplings dinner.
The mission of the Florida Folk Festival is to keep cultural traditions alive, so it emphasizes demonstrations and workshops. Visitors can learn how to square dance, make a pine needle basket or try out playing mandolin.
Planning your visit
- Tickets at the gate are $30 per day for adults; $60 for the three-day weekend. Children 6 to 16 are only $5 for the weekend. You can get tickets in advance for $25 per day for adults and $50 for the three-day weekend. Kids tickets are $5 in advance.
Lodging and campgrounds
Though the festival is held in one of Florida’s most remote regions, the area is blessed (cursed?) with accommodations that serve travelers on the nearby crossroads of I-10 and I-75.
There are literally dozens of roadside motels in nearby Lake City, just 18 miles away, and the area is peppered with campgrounds.
And while it’s unlikely you’ll find an available campsite at the host Stephen Foster State Park (you have to book them 11 months in advance), there are plenty more campgrounds, both public and private, within an hour’s drive.
For a comprehensive list of local public and private campgrounds (27), cabins and motels (53) in Suwanee County, nearby Columbia County (Lake City) and Hamilton County (White Springs and Jasper), visit SuwanneeValley.org.
Here are four of our favorite campgrounds that are NOT on that list:
Osceola National Forest.
Ocean Pond Campground. Sixty-seven campsites for tents, trailers, or RVs. Many campsites are waterfront sites, allowing guests to enjoy the water or fish right from their campsite. A beach area, boat ramp, drinking water, hot showers, and flush toilets in the campground. Located on the north side of Ocean Pond, a 1,760-acre natural lake, and about 17 miles west of Lake City and 34 miles from Stephen Foster State Park. $8-$18. Reservations not accepted.
Hogpen Landing. Hog Pen Landing serves is a primitive campground used as a hunt camp during hunting season and is open for general day use and camping during the rest of the year. With a boat ramp and restrooms (chemical toilets), it’s an appealing, quiet place to enjoy fishing or relaxing on the lake. Tents and tent trailers only. Located on the northwest shore of Ocean Pond, about 20 miles from Lake City and 40 miles from Stephen Foster State Park. $8-$18. Reservations not accepted.
There is also primitive, dispersed camping through the national forest for backpackers. For more information, go to the Osceola National Park web site.
Suwanee River State Park. Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, Suwannee River State Park has 30 campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs. Each campsite has a picnic table, grill, clothesline, 50 amp electric service, water and sewer hook-ups. An accessible restroom with showers is centrally located in the campground. Pets are welcome. Firewood and ice are available for sale on-site, as are kayak rentals. Sites are $22 per night. There are also five cabins, $100 per night. East of Live Oak, about 31 miles west of Stephen Foster State Park. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance by calling (800) 326-3521 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern) or TDD (888) 433-0287, or online at Florida State Parks.
O’Leno State Park. Two camping loops with 61 campsites, each with water, electric, in-ground grill, picnic table and a centrally located restroom in each camping area. A dump station and dumpsters on site. Leashed, well behaved and attended pets are allowed within the two campground loops but not in the swimming area, river, youth camps or buildings. There is a kayak/canoe launch in the park, and some great paddling awaits you. Sites are $18 per night. Campground is 35 miles south of Stephen Foster, near High Springs. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance by calling (800) 326-3521 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern) or TDD (888) 433-0287, or online at Florida State Parks.
Book A Room
More information about the Florida Folk Festival
- 2016 Florida Folk Festival official site
- More about the Stephen Foster State Park
- Frequently asked questions.
- Website for Florida Folk Festival,including scheduled performances.