Sunday, January 18, 2009
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park - White Springs, Florida
On the banks of the Suwannee River at White Springs, Florida, stands the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State park.
A beautiful facility, the park memorializes the life of the 19th century composer that sparked the tourism boom that eventually led to the development of the modern Florida tourism industry and provides a place where visitors can explore the folk life and culture of the Suwannee River Valley.
It is remarkable that Stephen Foster's life and legacy are so intertwined with a state he never visited. He died in 1864 at the young age of 37 with only 37 cents in his pocket, but his songs captured the imagination of millions of people around the world.
Two Stephen Foster songs - Suwannee River and My Old Kentucky Home - are now the official state songs of Florida and Kentucky. Many of his other melodies - Oh! Susannah, Camptown Ladies, Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair and Beautiful Dreamer - are still familiar today.
Foster wrote Suwannee River without ever seeing the river or Florida. In fact, the original lyrics went "Way down upon the Pedee River." The combination didn't give the composer quite the sound he wanted, so he began scanning a map of the South for a better name. He saw the name Suwannee River on the chart and the rest is history.
If you would like to learn more about the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, commonly known as the Stephen Foster Memorial, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/stephenfoster.