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Heritage Village hosts Pinellas Folk Festival
Annual event draws bluegrass, folk and gospel musicians
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Photo courtesy PINELLAS COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS
Visitors enjoy the sound of music resonating through the air during a past Folk Festival at Heritage Village in Largo. This year’s festival is Jan. 26.
LARGO – The Pinellas County Historical Society will once again turn back the pages of history as it presents the annual Pinellas Folk Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N.

The event will feature a pleasing potpourri of song and harmony including traditional folk, gospel, crystal-clear country and western tunes and sweet-sounding bluegrass. Guests also will enjoy ethnic dance, a native-style flute circle, folk and bluegrass jams, storytelling, a children’s stage, traditional craft demonstrations, a traditional fiber arts show, the popular Fleece-to-Shawl demonstrations and an antique car show. A model railroad enthusiast group, 4 Men and Their Trains, will be on hand displaying running trains.

The Morse Telegraph Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of the knowledge and traditions of telegraphy, will display and demonstrate antique and replica telegraph instruments and equipment.

Artists scheduled to perform at the festival include Keystone, Key of Life, St. Pete Shanties, Susan Boyer, Gypsy Wind, Charley Groth, CrackerBilly Band, Pamela Jo Hatley, Carmen Brandy, Leigh Humes, Simple Gifts, Juniper, Maureen Blot, Evergreen, Billy S. Noakes and Hammerhead Dulcimers Society

Folk performers

Among the artists performing this year are the St. Pete Shanties. The troupe sings songs that sailors, fishermen and dockworkers sang throughout the years, placing special emphasis on Florida mariners.

According to the group’s Facebook page, the St. Pete Shanties began among sailors living on their boats in the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. They had fun singing maritime music. They sang on the pier, loudly. As is the lot of sailors, some sailed away and were replaced by singers who, though landlubbers, wanted to sing maritime music.

The St. Pete Shanties have made recent appearances at Eckerd College, the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the St. Petersburg Parks, Fish Tales Restaurant and Festival Ruah.

The group’s repertoire is mostly traditional, though occasionally a handful of more contemporary songs is added into the mix. The performers see it as their mission to bring to light shanties "kissed by" Florida, sung by sailors reaching Florida ports, by the stevedores who loaded and unloaded ships or by the fishermen who fished the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.

Born in Clearwater, 14-year-old Carmen Brandy now resides in Safety Harbor. The singer/songwriter/guitar player started taking piano lessons at age 8 and by the age of 10, she started composing her own original music. During the summer of 2011, Carmen got her first guitar and began immediately playing and writing.

According to her website, Carmen visited Nashville in 2011 where she performed her first Writers’ Night event at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. She captured the attention of multiple songwriters.

Carmen’s possesses a melodic and captivating voice as well as a distinctive “warm edginess” in her vocals.

The Crackerbilly Band plays a mix of old-time, bluegrass, country, Florida folk and Americana, tansforming it into their own blend of “upbeat drunken, beer snobbery, moonshine drinkin’, biscuit-eating entertainment,” according to the band’s Facebook page.

Current Crackerbillys include Butch Luxenberger, washtub bass, juice harp and percussion; Joe Krivanek, mandolin and fiddle; Don "Hambone" Hanby, banjo and lead guitar; and David Morgan, guitar.

Crackerbilly Band founding members got their start as home-brewers who started playing music. “After along day of sitting around watching 20 gallons of beer boil, and 10-plus pounds of pork loin on the smoker, we would build a fire and sit around and pretend to play some songs,” the group’s biography explains.

Juniper is a familiar sight at the annual Pinellas Folk Festival.

The traditional Celtic/alternative folk duo includes Frances Pisacane on fiddle and Jasmine Hart on guitar and vocals.

Juniper weaves a tight tapestry of haunting melodies and lush harmonies. Sprinkle in some fiery rhythms and compelling vocals and you have the unique sound which transports Juniper's fans to an ancient time with jigs, reels and airs, and then brings them back with original Alternative Folk compositions.

The duo’s website offers some background on the name they chose:

“Ancient Celtic lore tells that the fairies planted the Juniper bush outside of the entrance to the ‘Other World.’ The same is true for those who now see Juniper perform and travel with them through that door into the ancient, misty moors of Ireland to the deep and soulful hills of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Living history setting

The 21-acre, open-air historical village provides a perfect backdrop for the annual event. Some of the county’s most historic buildings reside amidst pines and palmettos in a serene environment. Self-guided and guided tours offer a glimpse of yesteryear. The Pinellas County Historical Museum will be open, allowing visitors to trace the history of the county from the Indian-Spanish period to contemporary times.

Festival admission is a suggested $5 donation. Children 11 and younger will be admitted for free. Donations help support future events at Heritage Village. Free event parking will be available on 119th Street between Ulmerton and Walsingham roads. Free shuttle service also will be offered.

For information, call 582-2123 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/heritage.
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