Monday, January 26, 2009

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park - White Springs, Florida

"Way down upon the Suwannee River, far, far away..."

The words of Stephen Foster's longing 19th century melody have created images of a home far away for millions of people around the world. Suwannee River (also called Old Folks at Home) is now the state song of Florida and many attribute Foster's creation with sparking the tourism industry that fuels the economy of the Sunshine State.

Foster never actually saw the Suwannee River. He picked the name from a map of the South after his original words - "Way down upon the Pedee River" - didn't quite give him the sound he wanted. His song, however, inspired many others to travel to Florida in search of the beautiful stream.

Foster's contributions to American music are now memorialized at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida. One of the world's largest carillons is located on the grounds and plays Foster's songs at intervals throughout the day. The park is also the location of the Stephen Foster Museum, which features numerous artifacts and exhibits on Foster's life and music. One of the pianos he played is there, as is the desk on which he wrote Suwannee River.

In addition to preserving Foster's legacy, the park also serves as a state folk culture center for Florida. Artisans create native crafts on the grounds and a craft village gives visitors a chance to explore the folk art and crafts of Florida. Items ranging from woodwork to patchwork quilts are available for purchase.

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