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Singer pays tribute to state's natural beauty

Geologist Gregg Jones will perform his song at the Will McLean Music Festival in a locale that reflects Florida's untouched beauty.

By MICHELLE JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2000


WESLEY CHAPEL -- Gregg Jones' song Part of the Peninsula describes the real Florida, the Florida that, for many, is becoming a memory.

During this weekend's 11th annual Will McLean Music Festival, Jones will share his love for Florida in his song at noon on Saturday at the Sertoma Ranch just outside Dade City.

Voted third place by the Will McLean Foundation, Jones' song tells of the beaches, the wetlands and the forests that were once untouched and pristine.

"This is for the people who have been in the state for 30 or 40 years, the people who remember what it used to be like, but still love the state anyway," said Jones, who lives with his wife, Judy, in Wesley Chapel.

Jones' family moved to Florida when he was two months old, so he claims to be a Floridian.

The festival begins at 8 tonight, with contra dancing, and continues through Sunday. Tickets are $18 for the weekend or $10 for Saturday and $9 for Sunday. On-site camping is available.

Joining Jones will be Okefenokee Joe from Odum, Ga., who came in first with his song That's How the Gators Have Fun, and Al Scortino of Sebastian, in Indian River County on Florida's Atlantic Coast. He placed second with his entry The Joe Motel.

More than 50 songwriters and acoustic musicians will perform on multiple stages during the festival. Stages for poetry, music, storytelling and acoustic workshops will be set up under the giant oak trees alongside a lake.

There will be free workshops in guitar, banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, harmonica and songwriting. Demonstrations in weaving and woodcarving, as well as other traditional arts, are scheduled. Vendors will offer an eclectic assortment of T-shirts, leather goods, tie-dyed clothes and jewelry along with new and used musical equipment and merchandise.

Gourmet vegetarian food and specialty beverages along with hoppin' John, turnip greens, corn bread, barbecue chicken, catfish and grits will be available, as well as hamburgers and hot dogs.

The festival is dedicated to the memory of Will McLean, a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. He wrote songs, poems and stories about the history, heritage and natural treasures of the state.

Jones thought the venue of the festival would be a great place to showcase the song he wrote five years ago.

"I've been a singer and songwriter for 20 years," said the 42-year-old Jones. "I love Florida, and my goal was to work in the environmental field someday."

Jones works as a geologist with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, doing research on springs, trying to discover where contamination comes from.

"I am also working on suitable drought-proof water supplies such as desalination and capturing high flows from the rivers during the wet season," he said. "We are trying to get away from using ground water."

Jones attended Florida Atlantic University and the University of South Florida to earn his degree. Music is his hobby.

His CD, Long Night Ending, will be available at the festival.

For festival information, call (352) 465-7208 or visit the Web site at www.willmclean.com.

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I am part of the peninsula, I was raised close to the sea

I was introduced to the whitecaps balanced on my father's knee

Playing pirates in the sand dunes, climbing in the live oak trees

and sabal palms and sawgrass grew as far as I could see.

I am part of the peninsula, sand hills and cypress knees

I have wandered every inch of her from Alabama to the Keys

I've known the coral wonders, the rivers I have roamed

and sailing on gulf waters I've had dolphins guide me home.

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Lyrics from Part of the Peninsula by Gregg Jones

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- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is jones@sptimes.com

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