Staying in the Area for Spring Break? Consider the Will McLean Music Festival

The image shows Dave Berry, James Huston, and Diane Berry performing at the Will McLean Music Festival in 2021.

Whether a musician or a fan of live music, you can enjoy the Will McLean Music Festival on March 10 through 12.

The festival will showcase Florida’s songwriters and poets with performances from March 10 through March 12. The festival includes live performances on various stages with varieties of bands and artists performing on percussion instruments to share their Florida history and stories through their music. These bands include Just Folks, Ashley Gang, Frankie Jay and the Chicken Parade, and many more.

According to the festival website, “the Will McLean Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the education and training of musical artists in their journey of growing their musical abilities. The Will McLean Music Festival supports a youth program to encourage young artists to discover or continue their growth in music.”

Kathy Wallace, Festival Chair, stated, “There’s a lot of engrained history throughout the music, and so you’re getting a taste of it, but you don’t know it because the songs are so much fun that you’re just listening but then later, you go home and think, ‘Hey, that was interesting; maybe I’ll go look that up.'”

Songs about the history of Florida are also prevalent in the youth program. The youth participants write songs together and get experience in performing and story telling.

Diane Berry, a volunteer who has performed at the festival for 10 years, shared an example. “One year, they wrote a song about the tree that fell in the campground in Sertoma. Our instruments have part of that tree that fell, so they had us come on stage and play with them and show the instruments and show that part of the tree that had listened to music for years before it died.”

Berry is a member of the band Just Folks, which plays at the festival every year. One of their members, James Huston, is a performer in the youth program. Huston got involved in the youth program and festival through his grandmother, Sharon Huston, a festival volunteer who passed away in 2022. The Will McLean Music Festival will host a breakfast in her honor on Saturday, March 11.

“Come to the festival! We’d love to see more people.” Huston said, “It’s good to see more folk like us trying to keep the spirit of the Florida folk music going.”

Huston isn’t the only one who felt that way, as the band shared his sentiment when asked if more people, especially college music majors, should attend.

Another member of Just Folks, Michael Rutledge, agreed. “If you’re interested in music, it’s a great way to meet people your age and play with people your age. A wide variety of people, from absolutely new, like me, to people who have been doing it for a long time, like James. I wish I had that opportunity.”

All of the Just Folks members supported the idea that it would be a good opportunity for students to attend the festival for the experience, even beyond music.

Rutledge points this out when speaking about his favorite part of the music festival. “The best part for me is jam in the evening with people and get to play a lot of music and meeting new musicians.”

Just Folks members have made their connections to the community in their time playing for the festival. However, they weren’t the only ones who noticed the community that came from it.

“To get the experience of an organization and group.” Wallace said, “The Florida folk musicians are more of a family, and it’s a big family. Everyone cares for and encourages each other so you get a great sense of community.”

It’s not just building a sense of community that can benefit students. There’s also the experience they can gain from it. The stages are close to the audience, which, as Wallace stated, is important because you can see the instruments up close and how the musician plays them. Along with this, there are multiple stages that you can walk to and from to hear different musicians and their styles of music.

The festival raises money for the Will McLean Foundation. According to Wallace, the goal is “to provide programs and educational materials to promote involvement in artistic and educational fields of Florida arts, which would be music and folk arts. The biggest one we’re doing is providing scholarships and grants for college students, and we’re going to be moving that down to high school level as well.”

College students are encouraged to attend the festival and return in the following years, whether as volunteers, musicians, or youth program participants.

The Will McLean Music Festival will be at the Florida Sand Music Ranch in Brooksville. Friday, March 10 tickets are $20, March 11 tickets are $25, and March 12 tickets are $15. You can purchase your tickets on the festival website,