Way the Hell Up Upon the Suwannee River
Spirit of the Suwannee Park, just a few miles south of the Georgia border is a different kind of Florida. The group of us who went up to this unique campground for the Thanksgiving weekend had a relaxing weekend among folks who have never visited The Warsaw (or not in the last 20 years, at least).
Those who were in the campground early enough on Thursday experienced a "pot-luck" Thanksgiving for 300. The dinner was so well organized that they drew numbers from a hat to see which table got to take food from which buffet line. Everybody won.
Later that evening,, a few of us stopped by the "Pickin' Shed". The motto of Spirit of the Suwanee Park is "Music Lives Here", and they live up to the reputation. From mid-afternoon to late at night, an ongoing impromptu Bluegrass and Country session takes place with anyone who feels so inclined joining in.
There were banjos, guitars, mandolins, fiddles, harmonicas and a big bass, the mixture depending on who showed up. A new player would sit down without saying a word, and wait for a break for introductions. The music was exceptional. The players were of all ages, from an adolescent in black cowboy hat and boots, to an old farmer in red suspenders who could barely walk unassisted but who could get into his music.
We were lucky enough to visit during the Old Tyme Farm Days, an annual event. A local "Flywheelers" Club fired up their collection of chugging antique engines and farm implements. Since we're all basically a bunch of city folks, you wouldn't think we would get excited about farm implements, but you would be wrong. The collectors are excited about their prizes in the first place, and besides...it's really neat stuff! I was especially impressed with an attachment that turned a tractor into a portable sawmill. Could I attach that to my car?
As interesting was the once-a-year exhibit of the production of sugar syrup. This included everything: The cane was grown and harvested at the site. An antique mule-powered mill squeezed the juice from the cane. The juice was transferred to a huge wood-fired kettle, skimmed and boiled for most of the day until just the right moment, when it was ladled through cheesecloth into a cooling vat. We were invited to sample homemade biscuits covered with the still hot and flavorful syrup straight from the tap.
Due to the less-than-perfect weather, some of the events were canceled, notably the hot-air ballooning and the log-pulling contest(!) We also didn't get a chance to actually canoe on the river, although we did walk by it for some distance.
Special thanks to Dennis and Nestor, who thought up the trip, did most of the cooking, and arranged the activities for the weekend, Tigger, who kept most of the kids in the campground busy sanding wood, and Dave, who brought the tea. We'll be going back another time.