Monday’s Memorial Day which signals the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, but it’s also a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Special events are taking place throughout the nation at memorials and national cemeteries, but these places are open for visitors year round.
The Ocala-Marion Veterans Memorial Park was established in 1997 as a memorial to veterans who fought for our country’s freedom. The park includes more than 500 bricks, 200 benches, and 100 plaques recognizing those who fought in all conflicts in our nation’s history.
The park serves as a place to learn about our history beginning with the Indian Wars in the 1600s and continuing through the present while honoring those who lost their lives in service to our country. A small museum with artifacts donated by local citizens is located in the park office which is open Monday-Friday from 9:00am-1:00pm.
Memorial Day weekend marks the annual Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. As always, this year’s festival showcased musicians, storytellers, and craftsman from throughout the state. Named Florida’s Best Cultural Event and a Top 20 Event in the Southeast United States, this year’s festival celebrated its 61st anniversary.
We started the day eating shrimp provided by Healthy Gulf Healthy Communities and continued to eat our way through the park tasting the Seminole fry bread, fried fish, chicken and dumplings, and apple cobbler topped with homemade ice cream. However, the festival was more than a food fest. Craftsman demonstrated their skills and sold their wares and eight stages scattered throughout the park hosted musicians who performed from early each morning until midnight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Pete Seeger, a performer at the first Florida Folk Festival, was not on this year’s line up, but we listened to folk singers, bluegrass bands, upstart pop groups and of course, fiddlers. The festival is home of the official Florida State Fiddle Contest with competitions held in youth, junior, popular, twin, and rustic categories. We listened to the competitors in the rustic category, an amazing group of musicians (and who knew Alachua’s the hot bed of fiddlers).
I can’t think of a better way to kick off the unofficial start of summer!