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Rain is no match for inaugural First Street Folk Festival

Inaugural First Street Folk Festival showcases musicians from across the state in downtown Gainesville. (Jonathan Lamberson/WUFT News)
Inaugural First Street Folk Festival showcases musicians from across the state in downtown Gainesville. (Jonathan Lamberson/WUFT News)

The threat of a Gainesville summer rain failed to deter eager ears from filling the South West First Street and South West First Avenue intersection for Sunday’s first-ever First Street Folk Festival. The vibrant sound of local folk musicians emanated through the streets as performers from all over Florida played for the crowd of hundreds. “I was afraid that with the rain it would be closed down. I’m just so happy to see that people are so interested in enjoying the arts regardless of the rain. It’s very impressive,” said attendee Marcy Neumann about the festival. The First Street Folk Festival was hosted by The Bull, a downtown Gainesville bar, and showcased a mix of four bands and seven solo and duet artists from as far away as St. Petersburg and Orlando. The festival also provided an opportunity for local businesses and vendors to set up informational tents for the guests.

Festival organizer Quincy Allen Flint said the idea to host the event came immediately after the success in March of the Townes Fest, a Gainesville local musicians festival. In partnership with The Bull, Flint was able to garner support from local sponsors and businesses, as his efforts ultimately culminated into the First Street Folk Festival. “It’s great,” Flint said as he gazed upon the festival’s turnout, “Seeing people support the businesses and sponsors and all the people here is great.” Flint, who has been writing music and organizing events for the past two years, is already making a big splash in the Gainesville music community. Cathy DeWitt, a longtime Gainesville musician, shared high praises for Flint’s contribution to the local music and arts scene. “He loves music,” DeWitt said. “He came here and started connecting with other musicians and playing and promoting his music and putting this all together... It’s great to have someone taking up the torch.” One prevailing theme from most attendees of the festival was how the event underscores Gainesville’s rich art and music scene. “The more times you can bring people downtown to experience different things the city offers is a good thing... If you don’t support live music or culture, it goes away, especially with a town this size with the population changing,” said local musician Lance Spano. Spano and his wife, Mary Lisa Kitakis-Spano, both passionately agreed that they would love to see more local music festivals held in the future. “It’s really wonderful caliber music,” Kitakis-Spano said. Moving forward, Flint shared that he hopes the festival will become an annual tradition. Numerous admirers of Gainesville’s music scene at the festival emphasized that Flint’s continual efforts to showcase local musicians through such events only further the preservation of such a deeply rooted arts community. “The heart of a community is expressed in their creative culture, and that’s what Gainesville does very well. It’s a very creative community,” Neumann said.

Jonathan is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.