This is a little different for me these days – here at a festival solely as a spectator. Kind of nice actually. I played this festival the first 4 or 5 years it ran, but I haven’t been invited back in the past few years. However, I love this campground and the folks that run this event so I thought it was time to check it out again. Springfest is a production of Magnolia Music & Events, a/k/a our old friends Randy & Beth Judy and crew. It has grown into a huge, successful music extravaganza blending Folk, Celtic, Bluegrass, Folk Rock and other genre’s. This year the headliners include The Waybacks, The Claire Lynch Band, The Aaron O’Rourke Trio, Guy Clark, Verlon Tompson, The Steve Grisman Quartet, Peter Rowan, Roy Bookbinder and many, many more, plus a sampling of our own home grown talent including Lis & Lon Williamson, Clyde Walker, Tammerlin, Marie Nofsinger, Sam Pacetti, Cathy Lee and Annie Wenz. We pulled in at around 5:30 p.m. (later than I had planned) so we missed Gatorbone (Lon & Liz Williamson) on the Amphitheatre Stage – dang!! There’s a bunch of folks here! The festival has really grown. We got set up in our campsite, showered and then headed over to watch the songwriter contest finalists. We missed the first one as we had grabbed some supper and brought it with us to eat while we watched only to find out that the Music Hall Stage (a huge, much nicer edition of the old room) is actually connected to the restaurant now and they don’t let you bring food in. So we sat outside and ate, thereby missing the first finalist, Dean Johanesen (sorry Dean). However we saw the other 5. It was unusually “Florida heavy” this year as four of the six were from here at home. The other two were from N.C. Five of the Six were youngish (which for me could mean anything under 40), some only in their teens and all quite talented. The one, more “life experienced” fella was Steve Simpson from N.C. As Steve took the stage and began to play his first tune I realized I knew him – he’s a regular a the Swannanoa Gathering in N.C. and I’ve had the chance to swap tunes with him the past couple of years. As it turns out, age before beauty – Steve took the top spot and will return next year as a featured performer. The second spot went to Cheryl Watson of St. Augustine and third to the other Carolinian, Amanda Lightfoot. Another of the finalists, Chelsea Saddler from Jacksonville, the youngest of the six, was particularly good with a very strong, engaging vocal style. If you get the chance, catch her around Jax. Credit where credit is due – the “heavy lifting” here was done by Gloria Holloway from Tampa, Donna Green-Townsend (Executive Producer at WUFT Gainesville) and Mitch Lind (Wings & Strings). They had the tough chore of judging these six finalists and choosing the winners. That’s not a job I ever want! After the contest finals we stayed in the Music Hall to hear our friend John William Davis, last year’s contest winner. He’s another one that, if you’re not familiar with him already, you need to hear. Terrific lyricist and excellent guitarist. In particular, look for his song, “They Oughta Move to Texas” and his “yankee” song, both of which will have you in stitches. Great 1 hour set by John. Now there was music on many stages going on until the wee hours. But it had been a long, tiring day so we opted for the comfort of the camper, a little grain squeezins (ok, I opted for those, not Judy) and some solid sleep in the cool night air. See you tomorrow!