Tag Archives: Elisabeth Williamson

Honoring the late guitar-picking, storyteller Gamble Rogers

Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean 1988 50th Anniv of The Yearling in Cross Creek
Cousin Thelma Boltin, Gamble Rogers and Will McLean in 1988 at the 50th Anniv. of The Yearling in Cross Creek (photo by Iris Greenfield)

Every spring St. Augustine  plays host for the annual Gamble Rogers Festival.  The festival honors the late singer songwriter who joins the late Will McLean in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Rogers is known for his Travis-style guitar fingerpicking along with his storytelling which brings a mythical Florida county called Oklawaha into the national spotlight.

On October 10, 1991 Rogers lost his life while trying to save a drowning tourist off Flager Beach.

 

Sec. of State Sandra Mortham presenting Gamble's wife Nancy with the Artist Hall of Fame Award
Sec. of State Sandra Mortham presenting Gamble’s wife Nancy with the Artists Hall of Fame Award

On Memorial Weekend 1998, during the Florida Folk Festival, the then Florida Secretary of State, Sandra Mortham, publicly inducted the late Gamble Rogers into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Rogers has joined the likes of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Will Mclean and Ray Charles in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. He already has a middle school, state recreation area and a folk festival named in his honor.

Donna Green-Townsend reports on the successful musical career leading up to the induction.

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1998 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 1988
1998 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

During the induction ceremony at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs Dale Crider performed, “Song for Gamble,” written by Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen.  Crider was accompanied by Elisabeth Williamson on guitar and vocals and Barbara Johnson on bass.

Here’s audio of the trio practicing the song earlier that afternoon in the campground before the evening ceremony:

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In this rare footage, taken by an amateur photographer at the 50th anniversary of “The Yearling” at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Historic Site in Cross Creek in 1988, Rogers joined his folk colleagues, the late Cousin Thelma Boltin and the late Father of Florida Folk Will McLean, to share stories and songs.  The short video opens with McLean singing his beloved, “Florida Sand” followed by McLean introducing his friend Gamble.

 

 

Here’s a video of Gamble performing Black Label Blues:

 

 

In the following interview Gamble’s friends Steve Gillette, Cindy Mangsen and Dale Crider reflect on their long time relationship with the nationally acclaimed guitar player.

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Land of Flowers Music Video (highlighting area lake levels past and present)

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Drought and overpumping of the Floridan aquifer are blamed for low lake levels in the Keystone Heights area.

Singer songwriter Elisabeth Williamson was so saddened by the low level of Gatorbone Lake in the Keystone Heights area in recent years that she wrote a song about it called, “Land of Flowers.”  Lake levels in many North Central Florida lakes have been low for a long period of time (some say since 2005, the year after the busy 2004 hurricane season).  Many blame not only the lack of rainfall, but also overpumping by businesses, agriculture and utilities. Scenes from Gatorbone Lake, White Sands Lake, Lake Geneva, Newnan’s Lake, Cross Creek and  Orange and Lochloosa Lakes are included in this video produced by Donna Green-Townsend.

 

 

Some photos in this video were contributed by Keystone Heights Mayor Mary Lou Hildreth.  Other video and pictures were taken by Donna Green-Townsend and Lee Townsend.

See more about the economic effects of low lake levels on the Keystone Heights area at: http://donnagreentownsend.com/residents-of-lake-communities-frustrated-over-low-water-levels-pt-1-09192013/#.Uko9_drD-Uk

and the effects of low lake levels on the Cross Creek area at:  http://donnagreentownsend.com/cross-creek-area-businesses-hurting-from-low-water-levels-09192013/#.Uko-MNrD-Uk

 

 

Keystone Heights lake community frustrated over low water levels Pt. 1 (video added)

By Donna Green-Townsend and Amanda Jackson (UPDATE: a 15 min. video follows the text)

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Historic photo of Mary Lou Hildreth’s home circa late 1920’s (photo courtesy of Mary Lou Hildreth)
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Current photo of Mary Lou Hildreth’s home on Lake Geneva shows how the water has receded in recent years

 

 

The Keystone Heights community has been damaged economically by decreasing lake levels.  As the town teams up with the St. John’s River Water Management District, residents are hoping they are moving toward some solutions.

Keystone Heights Mayor Mary Lou Hildreth said her view – looking out onto the receding shoreline of Lake Geneva – makes her sad. She knows what it was years ago and what it could be if the water levels could recover. And after seeing her city suffer for many years and with an estimated $80 million in losses, she said, something needs to be done.

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Typical picture of a dock far away from the shoreline on many Keystone area lakes (photo courtesy of Mary Lou Hildreth)

Keystone Heights, known as the Lake Region of North Florida, has seen drastic changes to the landscape as lakes that once flourished have nearly dried up in the last two years. A decade of little rainfall and what residents fear is over-pumping of the Floridan aquifer have negatively impacted the lakes and the homes surrounding them. Hildreth said people aren’t eating in area restaurants, renting boats, fishing or skiing – activities that once helped businesses stay afloat.

In an effort to save the lakes and communities that depend on them, residents and politicians have been meeting and discussing possible solutions.

Many residents want to know what the exact cause of the receding lake levels could be, especially in the Keystone Heights area, and when solutions will be implemented.

SJRWMD spokeswoman Teresa Monson explained how hard pinpointing just one cause can be.

“The Keystone Heights area lakes have naturally fluctuated up and down over many decades,” Monson said, “and currently there are lower water levels in the lake that are largely — not entirely — but largely caused by reduced rainfall over many years. Again, even decades.”

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Photo of a truck driving across the exposed land of a lake in the Keystone Heights area

Water is also allowed to naturally seep down into the aquifer system because the local terrain is made of limestone and lake bottoms are sandy. Some of the lakes even have active sinkholes draining water into the aquifer.

The lakes haven’t always been this way. Elisabeth Williamson, a Keystone Heights resident, remembers the lake she knew from her childhood. She grew up in the area, living by Gatorbone Lake for most of her life.

“I really feel for folks that have retired to this area as they’ve watched their property values go down, down, down and also businesses that were very lake-oriented,” Williamson said.

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Elisabeth Williamson points to a dilapidated dock that is sitting far above the water of Gatorbone Lake

She recalled a little pond in front of the house where she grew up. Once a great fishing hole, it has been dry now for a decade or more. She also pointed out the number of docks  – now dry and falling apart – standing far from the shoreline.

Watching the lake levels fall over the years, she said, has been heartbreaking.

“I’m not sure it’s ever going to be the same again,” she said.

Williamson has been so distraught by low lake levels, she wrote a song about it called “The Land of Flowers.”  Here is a music video featuring her song:

According to statistics from the SJRWMD, the yearly average rainfall in inches is between 50 and 55 in Florida, but Keystone Heights levels have been down for some time. Monson said 10 years ago, rainfall was measured at 38 inches per year and improved five years later to 50 inches.

Despite these yearly fluctuations, 2013 was a good year for rain with the area receiving 19 inches between May and June alone which brought Lake Brooklyn’s levels up nearly four feet. Some residents, though, feel the reprieve is only temporary.

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View of Keystone Beach which looks more like a variety of ponds connected by land areas

“They used to have races out here on the Fourth of July, skiing, fishing, all types of recreational outdoor activities,” Hildreth said. “And now because the lakes have gone down, we don’t have that same draw.  And a lot of our businesses are suffering.  Our property values are suffering.  The economy of my city is suffering because of it.”

She said utilities, lack of rainfall, industry and agriculture all come together to create a perfect storm for low water levels in the aquifer. With no clear end in sight, the community is fighting back.

Save Our Lakes is one organization trying to make a difference. The group holds monthly meetings in Keystone Heights to inform the community about what is being done to restore the lakes and to develop long-term solutions to help the community recover.

1378831204589Save Our Lakes President Vivian Katz said a lack of knowledge is the key problem with the lakes, not a person or entity.

She said Keystone Heights is “a lake community that’s losing its lakes.”

For now, the community and the water management district are trying to work together and are evaluating an aquifer water replenishment plan. This plan would focus on bringing more water into the Floridan aquifer in the hopes it will benefit the lakes and wetlands and provide a sustainable water source for the region.

Hildreth said a variety of boards, especially for Lake Brooklyn and Lake Geneva, have been meeting for two years to discuss solutions, but the process is “agonizingly slow,” though she has noticed some movement on the water management district’s part.

“Our current concern, though, is that they’re not doing enough fast enough and that science should be driving the politics, but politics is really driving the science right now,” she said. (15 minute video with full interview segments from Elisabeth Williamson and Mary Lou Hildreth regarding Keystone Heights area lakes.

To hear part two of this series on water levels in North Central Florida lakes click link:  http://donnagreentownsend.com/cross-creek-area-businesses-hurting-from-low-water-levels-09192013/#.UtFOW9i4uUk

2013 Will McLean Song Contest Winner and Finishers

Here are the winner, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers of the 2013 Will McLean Best New Florida Contest. (85 entries)

 

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1st place winner Elisabeth Williamson

Winner Elisabeth Williamson “F-L-O-R-I-D-A”

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2nd place Susan Brown

2nd place Susan Brown “My Florida”

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Here’s Susan performing her song accompanied by musician and singer-songwriter Jamie Defrates

 

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3rd place Rog Lee

3rd place Rog Lee “Florida, No Appointments and a Full Tank of Gas”

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2007 Will Mclean Song Contest Winner and Finishers

Here are the 2007 winner, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers of the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest (51 entries)

 

Elisabeth Williamson
1st place winner Elisabeth Williamson

Winner Elisabeth Williamson “Florida Cracker Girl”

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Just before the 2007 Will McLean Festival, Lis talked with Donna Green-Townsend at WUFT about her first-time win of the Will McLean Song Contest

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Al Scortino
2nd place Al Scortino

2nd place Al Scortino “Spanish Gold”

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3rd place Scott Morris

3rd place Scott Morris “While Osceola Cries”

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Click here to go to the Will McLean Festival website