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By CAROLE TOLER
School is out – and educational radio is in session. The Wakulla Summer Sunday Radio Program: Exploring the People, History, and Traditions of Wakulla County, hit the airwaves on June 24.
Headed up by Herb Donaldson, the program is a six episode series on various topics relating to Wakulla, which run on Sundays at 4 p.m. and Mondays and Fridays at 8 p.m. on Wave 94.1. Each episode consists of interviews that Donaldson and his associates traveled through Wakulla to tape.
Donaldson explained that after living in New York for years and moving back to Wakulla, his hometown, he felt out of touch.
"I was starting to feel like a transplant, not a native...I wanted to kind of get back in the know of Wakulla again."
Donaldson thought the best way to understand Wakulla County was to "communicate directly with the people."
Donaldson met Chuck Robinson, owner of The Works Coworking Cafe, at the local Tropicana Speech Contest, where the two were judges. They got to talking, and decided to collaborate on a project that was all about Wakulla County and working together.
Robinson said that the SSRP was a "natural extension" of Wakulla Story, a play that Donaldson wrote for the Wakulla County Historical Society. The play covers the early history of Wakulla up to 1843, the year that Wakulla was officially founded.
Robinson said that after they decided to embark on the project, he and Donaldson brainstormed and decided what topics they wanted to cover. Then they had to ask themselves "Who's who in Wakulla County to cover those subjects?"
"Everything else [after that] was serendipity," Robinson stated.
Well – almost. After the first round of interviews – of at least 15 people – the computer that was storing the interviews crashed. Brett Allbritton, who assisted Donaldson and Robinson with the technical aspects of the project, just said "Let's ht them again," and they went back out to reinterview, with their tails between their legs, as Donaldson put it.
"Everyone was very gracious about it" Donaldson said. Their attitudes showed the "spirit of Wakulla County," the willingness of its citizens to work together.
Donaldson was very grateful of the support that Doug Apple, Wave 94 station manager, provided. He described Apple as "an all around nice guy," saying that he offered advice and any kind of on the spot assistance that was needed. Robinson said that Apple really seems to care about Wakulla.
Apple said that Donaldson approached him with the idea for the SSRP a couple of months ago, and that he liked it right away and agreed to run it.
"We want to serve the local community," Apple explained. "Herb seems like a visionary for creative radio and Wakulla County storytelling."
Donaldson said of the first episode, "I feel it was received very well." He wasn't sure how things were going to turn out, but said he received calls, texts, and emails of support afterwards, which he found very "inspirational."
A recent episode, which ran the weekend of Independence Day, was about gaining personal independence.
Donaldson explained that he had read an article – about the 1200 plus state workers who recently lost their jobs – headlined "Biggest worker shake-up in history," and wondered if such layoffs are solely a misfortune, or if they could be a new chance, a sort of "carpe diem" for some to find a new way to support themselves that provides meaning – if not as much money. Donaldson wanted to look at the history of Wakulla, and how its people found a way to "do their own thing."
The episode consisted largely of interviews with local business owners, interspersed with brief accounts of the beginnings of entrepreneurs in Wakulla's past.
Some business owners, such as Scott Kurlander of The Black Bean, and Robinson, began businesses that offer something to the county that no one else does. Kurlander serves Cuban cuisine, and Robinson, in his own words, provides a "traditional cafe married with office space" – and free wifi.
Others compete by using new approaches to traditional businesses – such as the utilization of sustainable energy in farming. Crescent Moon Organic Farm runs entirely on bio-diesel.
An organic blueberry vendor at the Sopchoppy Organic Market suggested simply finding a way to market your hobby.
Donaldson said that in the process of putting together the series, he has learned a lot. He has learned more about the judicial system from Brent Thurmond, Clerk of Courts, and more about how churches take their work out into the community from Glen Hamel, who runs Promise Land Ministries, for example.
Donaldson said he has learned most from the environmental episode, which aired last weekend. Jeff Hugo shared the history of Wakulla Springs, and Cal Jamison described the local water ecosystem.
Donaldson, who remembers people just dumping chemical waste into their yards from his younger days, asked Jamison to explain what happens to the water when oil, for instance, is dumped on the ground.
Donaldson learned that the 5 - 15 feet of soil do not act as a filter; gravity will pull all the oil down to the limestone beneath. The porous limestone is part of the aquifer, so when the oil reaches it, the oil goes straight to the water supply.
Donaldson and Robinson also learned that refrigerators, cars, boats, and even an old-fashioned Coke machine are among the items recovered from Cherokee Sink, where people have discarded their unwanted goods in the past.
"It was so timely," Donaldson said of the environmental episode, which comes at a time when the county is considering how to best utilize its natural resources such as Wakulla Springs.
Many of the people interviewed remember a time in Wakulla's bygone years when neighbors would lock the front doors if a friend forgot, and pick up pedestrians walking down the street – because there were no strangers.
"I want this radio program to be intimate like that" Donaldson stated.
Donaldson hopes that people who listen to the program will learn more of what Wakulla has to offer, and understand and appreciate how much everyone is connected.
This summer's series, which will include episodes such as Faith and Social Work and Local Heroes, is serving as a "tester," according to Donaldson. If the SSRP is a success, Donaldson would like to make it a yearly event.
Robinson, who would love to work with the SSRP if it reappears next summer, envisions being involved in community events before then.
Robinson noted that Posh Java and The Frog and the Hummingbird in Sopchoppy are the only locations in the county that offer live music, poetry readings, and other similar events, and would like his business to offer similar opportunities to the community.
The SSRP was sponsored by Palaver Tree Theater Company, The Works, Palmetto Expeditions, which is affiliated with Florida Green Guide Association, Morris Brown Construction, and a personal donation from Michael Shockley.
Donaldson and Robinson, who feel they have only scratched the surface of Wakulla, are interested in continuing to document the stories and histories of the county, and in increasing the level of community interaction. They would like anyone with ideas to email them. Donaldson's email is firstname.lastname@example.org and Robinson's is email@example.com.