Florida Folk Festival Recordings, 1954-2007

The first Florida Folk Festival was held in May 1953 but was not recorded. Early recordings were made on reel-to-reels while later years were recorded on audio tapes and compact discs.

Foster Barnes, curator of the Stephen Foster Memorial, recorded the festival beginning in 1954 until his retirement in 1965. Other staff maintained the practice until 1979 when the Florida Folklife Program began recording the performances.

From 2003 to present, Florida State Parks has recorded the festival each year. Thousands of festival recordings dating back to 1954 are housed within the Florida Folklife Collection at the State Archives of Florida. The only year not represented is 2005.

About the Florida Folk Festival

The festival is an annual festival of music, food and traditional arts that highlights and celebrates many folk cultures and traditions in Florida. First presented in 1953 at the Stephen Foster Memorial in White Springs, now 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 and through year-round educational and public programs, fieldwork and publications.

Each year, the organizers published a program. Early programs gave only the schedule plus the geographical origins of performers and sometimes a short biography.

Over the years, hundreds of performers, both professional and amateur singers, musicians, storytellers, actors, dancers and even puppeteers have played on one of the five 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 ampitheater and the old stage was re-christened the Old Marble Stage. In 1979, several stages were added, including the Folklife Narrative Stage, Storytelling Stage, Heritage Stage, Gazebo Stage, Azalea Stage and several impromptu stages. The number and location of the many other stages varied from year to year.

View programs from the Florida Folk Festival dating from 1953 to present.

Learn more in our online exhibit, Florida Folklife Collection.