Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2023-09-22

Hahira, GA, September 25, 2023 — Hahira, Georgia, September 25, 2023 — Ten musicians wrote songs and seven sang them, about the delights of the waters of the Suwannee River Basin and the need to preserve them against numerous threats. Jane Fallon came all the way from Dunedin, Florida, to the Turner Arts Center in Valdosta, Georgia, to sing a story about legendary Sun Daughters reflecting on a proposed mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, the headwaters of the Suwannee River. The three judges marked her high on storytelling and presenting the value of the waters, on originality of lyrics and music, and on performance, with extra credit for naming waterways. She took home First Prize in the Sixth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.

[Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper; Cindy Bear and Franc Robert, Best Folk; Jane Fallon, First Prize; Bacon James, Best from Outside; Kyle Bird Chamberlain and David Rodock, tie for Best from Inside; Chamberlain, Best Blues; Rodock, Best AmeriKinda; Keven Stephenson, Best Country --Chuck Roberts]
Suwannee Riverkeeper with the Winners: Cindy Bear and Franc Robert, Best Folk; Jane Fallon, First Prize; Bacon James, Best from Outside; Kyle Bird Chamberlain and David Rodock, tie for Best from Inside; Chamberlain, Best Blues; Rodock, Best AmeriKinda; Kevin Stephenson, Best Country; and Robert Thatcher (not pictured). Photo: Chuck Roberts

Jane Fallon said, “Thank you for the honor in recognizing my song ‘Chant For The Okefenokee’ in your contest. It is always a special feeling to sing a song for an audience that truly understands its meaning. Thank you also for the work you do in trying to preserve the waterways. It is so important.”

Here is the first half of her lyrics:

In the land of trembling earth, in the low and shaking waters
You’ll see spirits rise as the moon goes down.
Beneath the brilliance of the stars the beautiful Sun Daughters
Gather round.
Legend tells us that they disappeared in mystery
Escaping capture by lusty Seminole men.
But from the foggy annals of the great swamp’s history
They rise again. Saying we have come together on the evening for a reason –
There is danger in the air for our blissful land.
The water it will drain, and the fires start increasing
By a stranger’s hand.
Where the beautiful St Mary’s winds to the Eastern Sea
And the wild Suwannee rises towards the Gulf of Mexico
We must find the ones whose greed won’t let us be
And make them go.

So let us chant in a voice that’s strong and true:
Twin Pines, we don’t want your mines.
You poison wings and springs,
And no matter what you say,
There is no right way
To do the wrong thing.

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said, “Thank you, Jane, and all the other Finalists, for bringing your great songs to the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest. Thanks to the people who bought tickets and attended. Thanks to the judges for attentively listening and judging: Anna Stange from Madison, Florida, Tony Buzzella from Lake City, Florida, and Joe Smothers from Valdosta, Georgia.”

Robert Thatcher of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, won Best Folk / Bluegrass / Americana Song for “This Ol’ River,” which he wrote with Tom Brown. In a special exception by the Committee, they performed in a video they sent that was projected for the judges and audience, beginning, “Let’s protect this ol’ river/ For everything it brings/ For a way of life we can’t let disappear.”

Kevin Stephenson of Valdosta, Georgia, won Best Country Song for “Way Down Yonder,” about a favorite fishing hole on the Little River.

In a genre with three Finalists, Cindy Bear and Franc Robert of Jacksonville, Florida, won Best Folk Song for “Suwannee River in White Springs,” which she wrote with Susan Grandy, “in fond memory of our many years gathering and performing with our family of friends there at the Florida Folk Festival.”

David Rodock of Adel, Georgia, won Best Amerikinda Song for “The Shores of the Suwannee,” about “the importance of the river in our lives both today and historically. I also threw in a fair sized dose of doom at the prospect of sacrificing our ecological resources and the lives of our future generations for a little silver.”

Kyle “Bird” Chamberlain of Echols County, Georgia, won Best Blues Song for “Subtleties of Life.” He said, “Some people spend years trying to find peace. And mine is on the river or on stage.”

Rodock and Chamberlain tied for Best Song from Inside the Suwannee River Basin, so they’ll have to split that plaque and the $50.

Bacon James of Gainesville, Florida, won Best Song from Outside the Suwannee River Basin, with a plaque and $50, for “Run Dry,” a river tale of love and tragedy; see Chorus 2:

She grabbed him by the waist
Helped him down on one knee
Into that Sweet ol Swanee

“Not for the grief
Not for a lifetime of pain
Would we break or bend
And we’ll pray that our love never fades
Till we’ve both run dry”

Organizing Committee Chair Sara Jay Jones said, “Thanks to all ten Finalists, including the three who could not come. Thanks to Headliner Katherine Ball. Thanks to M.C. Chuck Roberts. Thanks to speakers Chris Adams who brought artifacts for the Wiregrass Ecological and Cultural Project, Fannie Gibbs about African and Native American History and Our Rivers, and Ken Sulak about Finding Florida in the 1800s: Ferries, Fords, and Trail-Marker Trees. Thanks to the Committee for sticking with it, and to the WWALS Board for putting up with it, until this first-ever WWALS River Revue was a success. We rocked the Autumn Equinox!”

WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said, “Thanks to the volunteers who helped, to David Rodock for handling sound, to Doug Jipson for taking video, and to Scotti Jay for projecting videos from previous years and video of Finalist Robert Thatcher with Tom Brown. Special thanks to the sponsors.”

River Sponsors ($2,500+): Dr. Bret Wagenhorst and Georgia Power.

Stream Sponsors ($1,000): Brooksco Dairy and Our Santa Fe River.

Creek Sponsors ($500): Michael Smith, Landis International, Clyde Butcher, and Great Dame.

Brook Sponsors ($250): Georgia Beer Co., Blazing Paddles & Kayak Club of Valdosta, Azalea City Woman’s Club, Southern Classic Realtors, and Moore, Clarke, DuVall, & Rogers, Attorneys at Law.

Pond Sponsors ($100): Don Davis and Unitarian Universalist Church of Valdosta.

Silent Auction contributors, including Wild Adventures, Agri-Supply, Olympia Bend Shooting Range, Azalea City Music Academy, Covington’s, Jack’s Chophouse, and First Magnitude Brewing Company, as well as artists Eileen Box (painting donated by Randall Box) and Julie Bowland.

For much more about the Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest and the WWALS River Revue, see:

[WWALS River Revue Flyer 2023]
WWALS River Revue Flyer 2023

About WWALS: Since June 2012, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity working for a healthy watershed with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable water.

Mission: WWALS advocates for conservation and stewardship of the surface waters and groundwater of the Suwannee River Basin and Estuary, in south Georgia and north Florida, among them the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, Santa Fe, and Suwannee River watersheds, through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities.

Our Watershed: The 10,000-square-mile WWALS territory includes the Suwannee River from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico, plus the Suwannee River Estuary, and tributaries such as the Withlacoochee and Alapaha Rivers as far north as Cordele in Georgia, as well as parts of the Floridan Aquifer, which is the primary water source for drinking, agriculture, and industry for millions of Georgia and Florida residents.

Suwannee Riverkeeper: Since December 2016, WWALS is the WATERKEEPER® Alliance Member for the Suwannee River Basin and Estuary as Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®, which is a project and a staff position of WWALS focusing on our advocacy.

Contact: John S. Quarterman
Suwannee Riverkeeper


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