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Forest Festival Aids Devastated Timber Workers

National Forest Service

A community festival celebrating one of Florida’s oldest industries takes place this coming Saturday, Oct. 27 in Perry. But Hurricane Michael’s devastating impact has added a new purpose and urgency to that celebration.

As long as there have been people in the land that would someday be called North Florida, the region’s vast forests have been a valuable resource. Scott Mixon, regional public affairs manager for forest products giant Georgia-Pacific, pointed out that resource remains of critical importance in the country to the immediate southeast of Leon.

“We have close to 6,000 forested acres just in Taylor County alone and that is tied to over 11,000 jobs as well as over $6 million in labor and income just in this county alone.”

Given that, it’s no surprise the folks whose livelihoods depend so much on those forests should throw a community party in their honor every year.

“This will be our 63rd Festival and for 62 years we have celebrated and gathered for the Florida Forest Festival and it’s a special time of year for us in this community as well as the region,” Mixon said, adding it’s the kind of happy, downhome occasion that used to be so common across America.

“We start with the parade at 10 a.m. It’s got military vehicles, bands, floats…it is a true southern parade. And then we go out to the (Forest Capital) Park where folks can enjoy the world’s largest free fish fry. It’s catfish, hush puppies and beans. People line up all across the festival grounds to get the good food. But if that’s not your cup of tea, there are all sorts of other vendors out there selling food.”

But Mixon was also quick to point out that this year’s Festival takes place at a time and in circumstances very different from just about every previous year.

“We couldn’t just have a Festival like we usually do on an annual basis without remembering that we’ve got people over in the Panhandle suffering. So if you’re planning to attend the Festival on October 27th, we would ask that you bring a donation of non-perishable food, basic hygiene products, cleaning supplies, pet or baby food, soap…whatever you think you can pull together. And when you come to the Festival, all you have to do is drop it off at a tent at the Festival or right over at Big Bend Technical College.”

Despite the sudden serious intent of the relief supply collection, the Festival’s prime purpose remains for everyone to have a good time. And Event Chair Scott Mixon said there’s even more reason to celebrate this year.

“We’re actually celebrating our high school homecoming the same week that we’re doing the Florida Forest Festival, so it’s like a big homecoming event here in Taylor County.”

You can check out: floridaforestfestival-dot-org before you go.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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