Sunday, December 13, 2009

'09 ends with a Georgia/Florida tour

We recently returned from a musical excursion to the Deep South following a long break from our late July trip to Morehead Old-time Festival near Morehead, Kentucky. Mac managed to get to a bunch of the late summer festivals and fiddler's conventions like Clifftop in West Virginia, the Galax Fiddler's Convention and the Fries Fiddler's Convention. We met up with our daughter Hanna and had a fun jam with her at the Rockbridge Festival near Buena Vista in September. Mac also was a beginning Clawhammer banjo instructor at the annual Augusta October Old-Time Week in Elkins, West Virginia.

So with some advanced planning we left for the South on Dec 2 and arrived at our old bass player friend Dick Daniels' place outside of Athens Georgia. We had not see him or his wife Mary in almost 30 years. He had played with Mac a couple of local bluegrass and old-time bands based in Blacksburg, Va in the late 1970's. We had fell out of touch, however, in recent times Dick had found out about Mac's banjos on-line and was interested in purchasing one. The wonderful ability to send photos help with his decision having seen some photos Mac sent of a recent one made of beautiful Canadian birdseye Maple. Being a wonderful bass player and overall music supporter he and Mary decided to fufill a dream to create a music venue where they could feature acoustic music for the general public. In recent months they had purchased an old country store building with a house attached in their rural community east of Athens. They named the place the 'Doghouse' for a variety of reasons. Checkout their website . Our professional trip to the Suwannee Old-time music weekend as well as the banjo delivery to Dick prompted us to set up a house concert at the "Doghouse' on our way to Florida. This was also a great way to break up our trip and to share our music with old friends and new folks in Georgia.

We arrived at our destination in White Springs,Florida late afternoon on Dec 3 only to find it overcast and cool in the mid 40's. We met up with our fiddling buddy Shay Garriock and his wife Leslie who had traveled from central North Carolina with featured former Florida musicians Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie. Our contact person, Tampa area DJ , Jim Strickland, met us and got us settled in to a cabin on the grounds of the Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center operated by the Florida State Parks. The Florida Folk Festival has been held there annually in the Spring for over 50 years. There is a Southern Mansion set up as a museum to honor the famous northern songwriter Stephen Foster.

The camp didn't officially start until 2 PM on Friday so we got to explore around the famous Suwannee River itself before having to be 'on the job'. We were to teach advanced classes in detail focusing on our local Blue Ridge Style of old-time fiddling, banjo and guitar playing and singing. The camp was small in attendence yet we were busy with public performances on Friday nite by some of Florida's best Old-time musicians.
Our trio with Shay was featured on Saturday night along with some other Florida masters. We had a great time and got a lot of pleasure playing for an enthusiastic audience. Both evenings following the performances there was jamming at the local Telford Hotel. The Telford is a classic Southern Hotel with a wonderful buffet type dining room where some participants stayed. It was built in the 1800's with an elegant decor for wealthy folks to stay at while visiting the actual natural mineral spring nearby.

Following our last classes on Sunday we left heading South to experience some of the 'real' Florida in the way of a canoe trip at a place called Ichatucknee Springs. We highly recommend folks experience this place for themselves. It was an amazing confluence of natural spring waters into a flowing stream through a natural area brimming with wildlife and Spanish Moss with no effort made other than to take photos and guide the canoe around natural obstructions. It was still a cool time with temperatures still in the low 50's at best. We headed back that evening and arrived home on Dec8 following an overnight visit with Jenny's cousin Dan Walden in Covington Georgia. We drove all day in the rain arriving home to an ice storm which took out a couple of our best trees near our house by morning. Somehow we failed to find the Sweet Sunny South on our trip and yearn to go back in late Winter but probably won't this winter.

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