Doug Spears On The Road - Folk Alliance Diary - Day 4 Well, it’s a wrap. I made Judy drive for a while this morning I jotted down my thoughts (blearily I might add after another night of short sleep) and listened to some of the CD’s I picked up from various artists. We went downstairs this morning to get the last breakfast buffet, say our goodbyes and share last minute contact info with anyone we somehow missed. As always it’s a mixture of relief to be going home to get some rest and disappointment that its over. Yesterday, the final day of music events, etc., was not a wind down, but a finale. Finally comfortable in my surroundings and used to the routine I was able to “work the room” much more effectively in the Exhibit Hall than I had any of the prior days and with great results. I met many wonderful people and left an impression with them of myself and my music that I think will stick, particularly with some follow up. I made many new friends that I can help get introduced to our folk scene in Florida and help bring their music to you - very exciting and satisfying. You will be pleased to know that the perception of the Florida Folk community is very, very good. People who were at this conference like Gloria Holloway, Michael Stock, Randy Wynne, Cathy DeWitt and others have represented us so well over the years. I heard many others mentioned by name as folks who’ve been so active and have given us a truly sterling reputation. We owe much thanks to those I’ve mentioned as well as Robby Greenberg, Amy Carol Webb and many, many more who I’m too sleep deprived to name at the moment (and to whom I apologize for failing to give credit where so richly due) for putting our best Florida foot forward in past years. It’s a little surprising to me that we are perceived as having such a wide spread, strong folk music market and community in Florida. Sure, I have always appreciated the number of well run festivals we have each year. But, I guess, as is human nature, I always imagined that the “folk grass” was greener elsewhere in terms of venues who regularly support this music on a weekly basis and house concert series with a lasting track record. I have come to appreciate, from listening to attendees from all over the country, that we are blessed with a vibrant folk community that, while it can always build and grow, we should be very proud of and should jealously protect. I repeatedly was asked about the Will McLean Festival, Gamble Rogers, the Florida Folk Festival and the South Florida Folk Festival. Many lamented the closing of Main Street Café’ in Homestead, but also heard a lot of encouragement regarding other venues, including Leu Gardens in Orlando and the many UU Church series’, including Octagon Arts that are so well regarded. I think I’m more happy than ever to be a native Florida Folk Musician. As you might expect, the level of talent here is astonishing. So many great musicians, writers and amazing singers from all parts of the country, Canada and abroad. The is an ever growing wealth of diversity in musical roots, genres and styles that are finding a home under the folk banner. There were special tribute programs to Mickey Newberry, Townes Van Zant and a couple of others. Well, so its over for a year. I’m definitely planning on returning next year now that I’ve “learned the ropes” a little. And, depending on other time commitments, I may try to hit one or more of the regional conferences - but I suspect that time will get too tight for that. I highly recommend the conference to all organizations, venues and promoters and fans of this music and to artists who are at the point where they want to take their career experience to the next level. It is not cheap by any means, but it is well worth the time and investment. See you back at the ranch!