'Way Down Upon The Swanee River,' There's A Great Engine Show

Farmall Tractor

The trees were full of tractors.

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What possible relationship could there be between the soft melodies composed by Stephen Foster and the 'WHOOF, Huff, Huff, Huff of a hit and miss governed and the staccato bark of a properly adjusted throttle governed one lung engine, or the steady roar of an antique tractor pulling an equally antique corn husker? Really, none that I can think of. But the annual Tractor, Engine and Craft Show at the Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center at White Springs, Florida, presents the opportunity to enjoy it all.

The seventh annual show was held on March 31, April 1 and 2,1995. The author was unable to obtain an exact count of the number of exhibits, or the states represented. Those in charge of the show stated that it was the largest ever. Exhibitors came from as far away as the New England states.

The show consists of the usual displays of antique machinery and flea markets, plus a daily tractor parade, tractor pulls, and working demonstrations of threshing, corn husking and shelling, hay baling, wood sawing, log splitting, trailer backing, plus whatever demonstrations the exhibitors might bring.

The first day of the show is devoted to children's activities, including a coloring contest, toy exhibit and a pedal tractor pull. Area school children are bused to the center.

The Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center is maintained by the Division of Recreation and Parks of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and is open all year. It is located on the banks of the Suwannee River, near the site of White Sulphur Springs, a former health resort that was visited by such famous persons as Teddy Roosevelt.

The foundations of the buildings and the cement enclosure was constructed to keep the river from overflowing the springs remain.

The center has a museum that is filled with Stephen Foster memorabilia, including animated dioramas depicting Stephen Foster songs, a carillon tower that houses the world's largest tubular bell instrument and rings out Foster's music throughout the day, and a craft square, featuring a working blacksmith shop, a potter and quilt making. Articles made at the craft shops can be purchased.

Stephen Foster probably never saw the Suwannee River, although he made it famous with the song, 'Old Folks At Home,' now the official Florida State song. According to legend, he wrote the words for the song, then wrote to a friend asking for the name of a river in Florida that would fit the lyrics. The friend suggested the Suwannee River, which became 'Swanee' in the song.

The center also has a picnic area and campground with shower facilities, some sites with electric and water hookups, and a sanitary dumping station.

An entrance fee is charged for day visitors, and for use of the campground. All exhibitors are admitted free and have full use of the facilities. No hookup camping is provided.