Although vital to Florida’s early economy, the lumber industry is not known for spirituality.
North Florida loves trees
It seems unlikely that any blend of tree worship and turpentine would give rise to a festival in one of Florida’s most venerable state parks.
Yet in a typically north Florida way, they twist together into the wildly commercial venture that is tourism in the Sunshine State.
Druidry, or druidism – at the center of which is the veneration of the tree – is nothing new.
A world religion dating back to at least 200 BC, druidry studies the interconnectedness of being and nature and seeks above all the cultivation of wisdom, creativity and love.
Especially after the hard freezes of the winter of 1894-1895 killed citrus as a cash crop, north Floridians needed a spiritual boost to rethink how to make the rent and groceries.
Look around – there are pine trees everywhere, and so lumber and turpentine proved sustainable resources and offered steady work.
Not too long after, they gave birth to the Florida tourist economy as well.
Forest Capital State Park
Before there was a Forest Capital State Park or a museum, there was an annual forest festival in Taylor county.
Since at least 1955, good folk have gathered to celebrate the beauty of the forest, the turn of seasons from summer fall, eat barbecue and listen to good, honest country music.
When Forest Capital State park was established in 1968, even as local Congressman Don Fuqua proclaimed Taylor County’s more than 525,000 forested acres “Tree Capital of the South,” the powers already had plans to be build today’s museum.
Designed by Florida native and architect Mays Leroy Gray and opened 1974, the museum honors the tree, both in its circular shape and in its extensive use of wood throughout – pine, red cedar, pecky cypress, ash, red maple and other native woods.
An homage to the longleaf pine, its collection includes nearly 5,000 products manufactured from pine.
Among other things, the museum is also a clearinghouse for information about other features of the park – an authentic 1863 Cracker homestead built by Wiley W. Whiddon, an authentic 1920s Florida smokehouse, and a real, honest-to-God 1864 Cracker house.
58th Annual Florida Forest Festival
The even better news about the forest festival and the world’s largest free fish fry is that they’re free.
And while the park won’t collect its usual entry fees, the staff will appreciate any donations you’re able to make.
Here’s the run-down:
Thursday, October 24
- Fireworks – 8:30 p.m., Perry Foley Airport
Friday, October 25
- Strutt Your Mutt Contest – 5 p.m.
- Kids Parade – 6 p.m.
- Gaslight Parade – 7 p.m.
- Street Dance – 7 p.m.
FESTIVAL DAY – Saturday, October 26
- King Tree Parade – 10 a.m., Jefferson St.
Forest Capital State Park – ALL DAY
- World’s Largest FREE Fish Fry – Noon
- Live Music – Casey Weston, the C. S. Holt Band and more
- Lumberjack Shows
- Chainsaw, Cross Cut & Loader Competitions
- Arts & Crafts Show
- Heavy Equipment Exhibit
- Kid’s Lumberjack Camp
- Antique Car Show
- Karaoke Competition
- Heritage Village
More details below.
The deep woods await.
58th Annual Florida Forest Festival
- Carnival opens, Wed., Oct. 23, 6 p.m., Festival: Sat., Oct. 26, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Admission: FREE & open to the public, donations appreciated, please no pets
- Forest Capital State Park
- US 19 South
- Perry, Fla.
- Phone: 850-584-TREE (8733)
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org