About the Florida Folk Festival

View the Programs | View the Recordings

The Florida Folk Festival is an annual festival of music, food, and traditional arts to highlight and celebrate Florida's many folk cultures and traditions. First presented in 1953 at the Stephen Foster Foster Memorial in White Springs (today, the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park), it has grown into one of the nation's oldest continuous folk festivals.

Initiated by the Florida Federation of Music Clubs and the Stephen Foster Memorial Commission, the festival began as a four-day concert on one stage. In 1979, the Florida Folklife Program assumed control of the festival while the management of the memorial was transferred to the Florida Park Service.

By the 1980s, the festival had evolved to more than five stages, complete with folklife demonstration areas, food booths, and activity areas. In 2002, the management of the festival was transferred to the Florida Park Service. Meanwhile, the Florida Folklife Program continued to showcase Florida's folk culture at each festival with the Folklife Stage, as well as through year-round educational and public programs, fieldwork, and publications.

The Florida Folklife Collection houses recordings created at each festival from 1954 through 2006. In addition, the collection features thousands of festival images as well as records of the event's creation and continued administration. A concise history of the festival can be found on the Florida Folk Festival official web page.

Each year, the organizers (first the Stephen Foster Memorial, later the Florida Folklife Program and the Florida Park Service) published a program for the Florida Folk Festival. Early programs gave only the schedule plus the geographical origins of performers and sometimes a short biography. Later programs added interpretive and thematic essays. Often maps of the festival, descriptions of booths and food offered, photographs of performers, and other detailed information were included as well. View the programs housed at the Archives (some years are missing).

Arranged by year, this is a list of the festival recordings within the Florida Folklife Collection available online as MP3 files. Click on a year to read a description of all recordings for that year's festival, including dates and performance stages. For descriptions of individual recordings, go to the Folklife Collection database.

The first recordings were created in 1954 by curator of the Stephen Foster Memorial, Foster Barnes. He continued to record the festival until 1965. Park staff and later the Florida Folklife Program continued the recordings. Films and videos were also created; see S 1615 for more information on festival-related moving images.

Performers

Over the years, hundreds of performers, both professional and amateur — including singers, musicians, storytellers, actors, dancers, and even puppeteers — have played the Florida Folk Festival. Here is a link to an alphabetical list of many of the performers to have played the Florida Folk Festival, followed by the year they appeared.

Stages

The Florida Folk Festival began in 1953 with only one wooden stage. In 1955, that stage was replaced with a "marble" stage, made from the discarded blocks from the old Barnett Bank Building in Jacksonville. In 1975, the main stage was moved to the newly constructed amphitheater, as the old stage was re-christened the Old Marble Stage. After the Florida Folklife Program assumed control of the festival in 1979, they added several stages, including the Folklife Narrative Stage, the Storytelling Stage, the Heritage Stage, the Gazebo Stage, the Azalea Stage, and several impromptu stages. The number and location of the many other stages varied from year to year.

Series

Several archival series contain material relevant to the Florida Folk Festival. Click on the series to read a description of each. All images and sound recordings from these collections have been described in the Folklife database. For container and file listings, go to the State Archives of Florida's Online Catalog.

1976 Folklife Programs 1981 Folklife Programs 1986 Folklife Programs 1997 Folklife Programs
S1576 Audio Recordings of Florida Folk Festival Performances and Other Folk Events, 1935-2006
S1577 Photographs and Slides of Folk Arts, Artisans, and Performers, 1910-1995
S1578 Publicity Photographs and Files for the Florida Folk Festivals, 1954-1992
S1664 Florida Folk Festival Fieldwork and Program Planning and Documentation Files, 1983-1995, 1998, 1999
S1580 Thelma Ann Boltin Folklife Papers, 1955-1967
S1612 Florida Folk Festival Planning and Publicity Records, 1954-1993
S1615 Video recordings of Florida Folklife Events, Programs, and Television Broadcasts, 1948-1995
S1619 Florida Folk Festival Programs, 1953-2001
S1627 Florida Folklife Programs Administrative Files, 1970-1989
S2034 Florida Folk Festival audio recordings, 2002, 2004, 2006