Walking through Main Street in downtown Crestview, Fla., the faint sound of a plucking banjo echoes down the street of historic brick buildings and storefronts. The music draws shopkeepers and passersby with smiles and a sort of warmth that you can only find in a small town like Crestview, even on a wintry January morning.
The sound is a familiar and welcome one to residents and business owners here in the Hub City, which celebrates its 100th year since the railroad boomtown was first incorporated in 1916.
At its peak in the early 20th century, Crestview’s Main Street hosted three movie theaters, two hotels, a newspaper, a bank and a grocery store. Today, two of those early businesses remain on Main Street — the Coney Island diner and Crestview Hardware, which has been on Main Street for more than 70 years. Throughout the last century, many thousands have passed through the once thriving hub of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
Today, one familiar face is a daily sight on Main Street. Rick Edenfield, also known as “the Banjo Bear,” is the man behind the plucking banjo that sings out traditional gospel, country and folk music downtown that so many have come to love.
“I’ve been playing for 49 years — and that might as well be 50,” says Edenfield. “For nine years I was homeless, so I’m grateful for what I have. As long as I can get in my wheelchair and it’ll roll, I’ll keep coming down here. I’m down here everyday, seven days a week.”
Edenfield says he only just recently returned to playing on Main Street after suffering from a nearly fatal health emergency. “I died four times — twice in the hospital room and twice on the operating table,” says Edenfield, referring to an incident last year when he suffered from a collapsed lung while walking home from his Main Street streetside stage. “But I guess the man upstairs wasn’t ready for me.”
Edenfield says he plays his banjo downtown to help keep the history alive in Crestview, especially for the kids. “I’m just trying to bring back the heritage of the old time music,” Edenfield says. “If it weren’t for the kids, I don’t even know I’d come down here everyday. A lot of has changed since I grew up here and I’m just doing what I can to keep them out of all that garbage we have in today’s world.”
His entire life, Edenfield says he’s had one life mantra that always kept him in high spirits. “My father instilled four things in me: don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t judge and don’t disrespect anybody,” he says.
The town of Crestview, Florida is celebrating its centennial in 2016. Throughout the year, The Pulse will be sharing stories of the town’s past, the stories of its people and the future of Crestview. View a gallery below of the scenes on Main Street and the buildings and memorials to the Hub City’s past.