The 60th annual Florida Forest Festival in Perry is going “Back to Our Roots” as it honors the state’s forests and their ties to the Florida's economy and culture along with its landmark anniversary. As part of the celebration, several old traditions are expected to return and new ones born, with entertainment including Grammy Award-winning country group Shenandoah and world-renowned archer Byron Ferguson. More than 20,000 people from around the region are expected to converge on Forest Capital State Park on U.S. 19 on Saturday, Oct. 24, but the festivities officially kick off Wednesday, Oct. 21, when the carnival opens for business on Industrial Drive next to Perry-Foley Airport. Everyone is invited to return the next evening, Thursday, Oct. 22 for the “fabulous” fireworks display at the airport beginning at 8 p.m. On Friday morning, Oct. 23, students from local schools will take part in the Heritage Day Field Trip to Forest Capital State Museum, where they will be able to see demonstrations from Florida’s pioneer past along with programs by the Florida Forest Service, live lumberjack shows and Ferguson. Friday night will see festivities move to historic Downtown Perry for the Strutt Your Mutt Dog Contest, at Rosehead Park’s Grand Pavilion at 5 p.m.; the return of the festival-favorite Great Bed Race at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse square; and the Gaslight Classic Car Parade at 7:15 p.m.
The classic cars will stream down to Perry Square (Save-a-Lot shopping center) for a street dance featuring live music from the band Southern Rain. Other downtown events include the Kid’s Fun Run at 6 p.m. with scary stories following at Rosehead Park's Grand Pavilion at 8 p.m. Saturday morning of “festival day” (Oct. 24) will bring the annual King Tree Parade passing through Downtown Perry along Jefferson Street beginning at 10 a.m. Main Street Perry will host a farmer’s market at the Grand Pavilion from 8 a.m. to noon. Additionally, the festival’s “Great Race,” the downtown 5K run, returns again. Following the parade, everyone will travel to Forest Capital State Park for the rest of the festival. Some 65 arts and crafts vendors are expected at the festival, opening at 9 a.m., along with dozens of special concessions and food booths. Forestry-related events include professional lumberjack shows (at 12, 2:30 and 4 p.m.), a kid’s lumberjack camp (beginning at 2:30 p.m.), chainsaw competitions, loader competitions and cross-cut saw competitions. The World’s Largest Free Fish Fry begins serving at noon, as an estimated 6,000 people will receive a free lunch of fried catfish, baked beans and hushpuppies. The mainstage entertainment begins at 12:30 p.m. and will include performances from the Shenandoah Reunion Tour, The Grapevine and Ashton Stoyer. When country music lovers talk about the greatest groups in the genre, Shenandoah is always at the forefront of any discussion.
Fueled by Marty Raybon’s distinctive vocals and the band’s skilled musicianship, Shenandoah became well known for delivering such hits as “Two Dozen Roses,” “Church on Cumberland Road” and “Next to You, Next to Me,” as well as such classics as “I Want to be Loved Like That” and the Grammy-winning “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart” duet with Alison Krauss. Today that legacy continues as original members Raybon and Mike McGuire reunite to launch a new chapter in Shenandoah’s storied career. For information about any of the festival’s events, or to get directions, call the festival office at (850) 584-TREE (8733) or visit online at www.floridaforestfestival.org.