Old-time storytellers, folk musicians and traditional fiber artists will once again be featured Saturday during the annual Pinellas Folk Festival at Heritage Village. However, technology will be a topic of conversation this time, too.
The Folk Festival will be the first official event held at Heritage Village since Pinellas County installed quick response or QR codes at 18 of the 28 historical structures at the living history museum.
So now, while observing some of Pinellas' oldest homes, visitors will be able to swipe their smartphones over the codes displayed at each stop, and receive audio links to self-guided tours. (The county also has installed QR codes at Brooker Creek and Weedon Island nature preserves.)
The new audio tours at Heritage Village, an addition to the regular docent-led tours, focus on the architectural history of different buildings, including the much-loved House of Seven Gables, a variation of a late Queen Anne style, as well as the Safford Pavilion, completed in an Adirondack rustic style.
Since Heritage Village opened more than 30 years ago, visitors have been inquisitive about the different architecture styles, said Heritage Village director Ellen Babb. Several months ago, Babb and Bob Costigan, a volunteer in Pinellas County's communications department, began working on the QR code project. After Babb gathered the information, Costigan scripted and voiced segments for each structure.
"This is exciting,'' Babb said. "We love being able to add something new and technological like this.''
This weekend's Folk Festival will also be the first time the public can check out a new, permanent exhibit inside the Sulphur Springs Depot created by the Florida Chapter of the Morse Telegraph Club.
On Saturday, club members will be inside the train depot helping visitors learn to operate the interactive exhibit, which includes vintage telegraph equipment. When a button is pushed, a 10-second message will be set off, reproducing Samuel Morse's first public telegraph communication sent from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., on May 24, 1844.
Along with the two new programs, the festival will feature dozens of entertainers, including Frank Thomas, a Lake Wales musician and past recipient of the Florida Folk Heritage Award.
This marks the 20th year for the Pinellas Folk Festival, which is organized by the Pinellas County Historical Society. Last year, the Historical Society began asking for $5 at-the-gate donations to help offset the cost, and the group has decided to ask for the same amount on Saturday.
"We know people enjoy the event, but it is expensive for us to put on,'' explained Rosemarie Kafer, Historical Society president. "It costs us about $6,000. With the $5 donations, we hope to recoup most of that.''
Other artists scheduled to perform at the festival include Keystone, Key of Life, St. Pete Shanties, Susan Boyer, Gypsy Wind, Charley Groth, Cracker Billy Band, Pamela Jo Hatley, Carmen Brandy, Leigh Humes, Simple Gifts, Juniper, Maureen Blot, Evergreen, Billy S. Noakes, Native "Style" Flute Circle and the Hammerhead Dulcimers Society.
Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.