DUNEDIN — The inhabitants of Honeymoon Island State Park — from ospreys and great horned owls to gopher tortoises, raccoons and armadillos — don’t seem to mind that on one special day each autumn, bluegrass musicians make the time to visit this slice of Florida paradise, bringing with them 5-string banjos, mandolins, fiddles and guitars.
Presented by the Friends of the Island Parks, this year’s Honeymoon Island Bluegrass Festival will take place Saturday, Dec. 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the state park, 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin.
The family-oriented festival will serve up six full hours of traditional bluegrass music while showcasing the natural beauty of Honeymoon Island State Park. The event is presented in the shaded picnic area near the north beach and wooded hiking trails. Concert tickets are $10 a person. Park entry is not included in the cost of the concert ticket. Park entry costs $4 for one person in a vehicle; and $8 for two to eight people in the vehicle. Children 11 and younger will be admitted to the concert for free.
This year’s featured bands include Jeff Parker & Company, East Tennessee State University Pride Band, Dreamcatcher and Stump Hollow & Friends.
The festival also will feature children’s activities, crafts, and face painting. Local vendors will be on hand offering local foods and beverages.
Jeff Parker and his band headline this year’s lineup. A multi-album recording artist and bluegrass fan-favorite from central Kentucky, Parker is famous for his mandolin-playing and lead vocals, boasting more than 30 years in music. He has performed and recorded across America and internationally with musical acts such as the Lonesome River Band, Dailey & Vincent and his touring band, the Company. The band includes both fellow veterans of the bluegrass scene and young musicians just getting their start in the business. On banjo is Joey Cox, who cut his teeth playing with Blue Ridge, Kenny and Amanda Smith, and Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. David Chrisley is a bassist from Virginia who performed with Adam McPeak and Mountain Thunder, and Beverly Horton and the Turkey Creek Band.
Parker’s fresh young talent includes Colin Ray and Max Silverstein, recent graduates from East Tennessee State University. Ray’s vocals complement Parker’s, and Silverstein’s fiddle adds a smooth and classic tone to the band. Both newcomers have played with other bands while still at ETSU.
In fact, every band in this year’s lineup includes either students or graduates from the East Tennessee State University bluegrass program. For those who have a budding bluegrass musician in the family, this year’s festival might offer inspiration and direction.
The Dreamcatcher Bluegrass Band, led by 26-year-old Aaron Foster, an ETSU graduate, has played at this event for the last four years — beginning the run when the festival was hosted by the Palm Harbor Museum before it relocated to Honeymoon Island State Park. Foster and his friends from ETSU perform in more than one band in various festivals across the country and Canada. Many of these band members teach others to extend bluegrass into the next generation.
According to Peter H. Krulder, Honeymoon Island State Park manager, the Friends of the Islands support various projects throughout Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island state parks.
“For the last several years, they have been raising funds for the construction of the Caladesi Discovery Center, which will be an open-air interpretive facility on Caladesi Island,” Krulder said. “Over the years they have purchased several pieces of equipment for the parks. These include golf carts, utility vehicles, a dump trailer and various smaller pieces of equipment.”
The organization also supports the Learning In Florida’s Environment program.
“This program has seventh-graders from Dunedin Middle School come out to the park for three separate sets of labs,” Krulder explained. “The labs educate the children about the science behind protecting their local environment. The Friends purchase equipment and provide bus transportation for the students to attend the program. The Friends also support upkeep and new equipment and displays for the Rotary Centennial Nature Center at Honeymoon Island.”
For information about the festival, visit www.facebook.com/honeymoonislandbluegrassfestival.
The Friends of the Island Parks is a nonprofit community organization that supports Honeymoon and Caladesi Island State Parks with volunteers and fundraising events. Visit friendsoftheislandparks.org.