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A Musical Fourth of July Weekend in Sopchoppy

City of Sopchoppy

If there’s a holiday with its roots firmly in America’s hometowns, it’s the Fourth of July.  For instance the small Wakulla County town of Sopchoppy is ready to mark the occasion with all kinds of fireworks, including the musical variety.

Among the many musicians with a connection to the town is Rick Ott.  His band,  his From the Heart Recording Studio and the many concert shows he produces are as much a part of the local landscape as hanging moss.  It’s no surprise then that he’s so involved with his town’s Fourth of July Celebration.

"This event's been going on since the early 70s.  Of course this year's event is in commemoration of Bill Stevens who really  kept this event rolling through the years.  He was our public works director and responsible for putting the county's  current water system in place."

Ott looks for the event to come back strong after it was nearly washed away last year.

"Last year we were just coming out of that flood and I know a lot of people probably stayed away.  We still had thousands of  people. But this year we're expecting anywhere between three and eight-thousand people by the time we hit the fireworks on  Thursday night.  We have one of the largest fireworks displays on the North FLorida coast.  It's beautiful, it's right over  the river and it's a sight to see."

For a great view of Thursday’s fireworks, Ott suggests a campsite along the Sopchoppy River.  Those sites, including all hookups, will be free to Thursday’s overnight campers.  And that’s just the start of the fun, which goes on into the weekend.

"On Friday we've got some string pulls and some free concerts down at the park.  Wakulla Adventures is going to be there  giving free river tours on the Sopchoppy River on their solar boat.  Then we're going to move everything back downtown.   We've got a 'writers-in-the-round'show that evening.  Saturday morning we've got free concerts downtown.  Chuck and Lari are  doing a spectacular workshop." 

Chuck and Lari, by the way, are renowned Nashville song writer Chuck Cannon and his singer-performer wife Lari White.  He’s written tunes for some of the biggest names in country music, such as Toby Keith, Kenny Rogers, Wynonna Judd, and Sawyer Brown.  She had a string of hits in the 90s, which included a few of Chuck‘s compositions.   Lari says for them, being a part of the Fourth of July party in Sopchoppy will be pretty much a homecoming.

"Chuck and I both have family connections going way back all across the Panhandle and especially right in the Tallahassee  area, starting with the fact that I would not exist if it weren't for Florida State University because my parents met there  in a dance class because they were both late for class one day and they had to stay after and they learned to jitterbug  together in that class.  And they've been dancing together ever since."

Chuck Cannon says he and Lari are really looking forward to working with local songwriters during their Saturday workshop.  Especially since so much of today’s music is breaking down the traditional boundaries separating styles like country, rock, blues and bluegrass.

"Robert Plant had a number-one record in Americana.  The lead singer for arguably the biggest rock group of all time.  I  think Richard Thompson the truly wonderful folk and rock artist out of the U.K. is making a big splash."

Chuck and Lari may even wind up performing with an old friend.  A true local musical hero by the name of Billy Dean.

"My dad's name was Billy Dean and he had a band for about 28 years and played over in Gadsden County at the American Legion  hall.  And that's really where I forged my country roots through that band and I just love the face that some of those guys  are still playing and they do the Sopchoppy Opry and the fact that Sopchoppy is really growing in terms of their interest in  music and entertainment."

No time more so than this long Fourth of July weekend.