By Michael Roth
President, Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
The ninth annual Santa Fe River Songwriting Contest and the associated OSFR RiverFest festival is now in the history books, and from the word on the street, it was a fun day for everyone involved. The music just gets better and better, with seven great contestants, a fantastic blues band, and even (ahem!) a genuine barbershop quartet.
Let me start by congratulating Cindy Bear and Franc Robert on their first-place finish, with great kudos to Ricky Kendall as a great runner up, and to Billy “Sweet William” Ennis and Karen Mullins (coming way out of her comfort zone!) as co-third-place finishers. And special thanks to Ed Amaya, Ellen Bukstel and Qquincy for serving as our very able and accomplished judges (even if they did refuse to acknowledge the validity of the Phabulous Phlegmtones entries!!) Speaking of the Phelgmtones, thanks to Dave Jacobs, Rodney Samuel and Tyson Adams for helping me lay down some four-part a cappella. And finally, in the music category, thank you to The Devil Jays for their crowd-pleasing three hour set of inspired blues.
None of this could have happened without our sponsors. Parks Ford of Gainesville is a three-time Santa Fe River Sponsor for which we can’t thank them enough. Beyond funding a great portion of the entertainment, supplies and advertising, General Manager John Lanza and Customer Relations Director Brent Russell and their families brought two vehicles to ogle and test drive and contributed in much of the festivities. Another Santa Fe River Sponsor, Digitel Video LLC, led by Doug Jipson, handled all of the sound setup for us and video recorded and mixed the entire event for us. Look for snippets on YouTube! And finally, our third Santa Fe River Sponsor, Rum 138, which is and has been a major benefactor to OSFR in so many ways, donated their facility, their staff and the profits of the food and beverage sales for the day, along with forfeiting a busy Sunday of kayak rentals, and helped to make the day run smoothly and easily. Doug and Merrillee provide OSFR with free office space, conference room and mailing address throughout the year, every year, so their beneficence at RiverFest is merely the icing on the cake. Without their continual support, our all-volunteer organization could not exist as effectively as we do.
Much additional thanks go out to our Springs Sponsors: High Springs RV and Boat Storage, Adventure Outpost, and AAA Porta Serve; and our Friends of Water Sponsor, H&R Block (in the height of tax season, yet!!) for their generous involvement.
There are unsung heroes as well. Susan Giles volunteered uncounted hours keeping the website vibrant and putting RiverFest front and center on our online presence. Kathy Fleming designed much of the printed materials and donated her special talent as our marketing guru. Sanna Saare, in addition to helping with our online presence and graphic design, spearheaded the effort that produced the most impressive printed program in the event’s nine-year history. That mermaid you saw? Thank you, Danielle Shmalberg! And most of the photos that you have seen were courtesy of Ray Carson and Josh Birmingham. Did you participate in the 50-50 drawing? Thanks, Linda Heyl.
Finally, the “dirty work” – setups and breakdowns, including tireless efforts by Cathy and Bill Messersmith (again this year!!) and Shirley Noel and Danny Arnold (visitors from Orlando!!).
All this without even mentioning our fantastic Board of Directors, each of whom contributed mightily to the success of the event. Oh, and one more thank you – thank you to all of the attendees! I hope your support of Our Santa Fe River serves you well in many ways in the future, but I know it served you well on March 31. You are awesome!