Today, January 13th is Stephen Foster Memorial Day.
Most of you will know who Stephen Foster is, but even if you don’t, we all know his songs. Foster was known as the “Father of American Music” and penned such songs as “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” and my favorite “My Old Kentucky Home.”
While Foster spent most of his life a little north of the Mason-Dixon, the South has embraced his music, which embodies the American spirit. Foster made many of our beloved Southern landmarks famous with his songs. White Springs, Florida is home to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park on the banks of the Suwannee River. Foster wrote “Old Folks at Home,” which made the river famous. The Museum at the Folk Culture Center features exhibits about his music.
In Bardstown, Kentucky you can visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park. Foster was inspired to write his famous tune, which is now the Kentucky state song and sung each year at the Kentucky Derby, after visiting his cousin, Senator John Rowan, on Federal Hill. Today, you can tour the mansion on Federal Hill. And if you’re there during the summer months, be sure to stay for the Broadway-style show “The Stephen Foster Story.” I was delighted by the costumes, songs, and story last time I visited. The grounds are beautiful and you can’t do better than a warm night under the stars at their amphitheater.