Wednesday, October 28, 2020

500 Years of History Brought to Life


An operational sugar cane press was part of the fun for children at the Old Florida Festival. Photos by Don Manley

An operational sugar cane press was part of the fun for children at the Old Florida Festival. Photos by Don Manley

A glimpse into the state’s long and varied history was again provided at the 28th annual Old Florida Festival.

Held recently on the grounds of the Collier Museum at Government Center, the weekend-long, family friendly event treated young and old to reenactments of the Calusa Indians, Spanish conquistadors, the Revolutionary War, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the three Seminole Wars, the American Civil War, pioneer Florida, and World War II.

There were period demonstrations, live music and special entertainment, local food vendors and more, including storytelling from members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Festival volunteer Cindi Kramer of Marco Island examines Dan Barker’s tanned deer skins.

Festival volunteer Cindi Kramer of Marco Island examines Dan Barker’s tanned deer skins.

Jim Clark of Naples has been part of virtually every Old Florida Festival as a member of the Southwest Florida Living Historians, which reenacted the third of the Seminole Wars (1817-1858), which saw the tribe fighting to retain their land, rather than be relocated to Indian Territory in America’s West.

He agreed that the festival is an important community event.

“Down here in Naples and even in Fort Myers, so many people, they’re not native Floridians,” said Clark. “They come from everywhere. They bring their history with them, which is great, but they don’t realize that Florida has a rich history that goes back over 500 years. We want people to understand that there was a history in this area that they’re part of now and we want to share it with them.”

Seminole craftsman Jacob Osceola creates a bag from tanned deerskin.

Seminole craftsman Jacob Osceola creates a bag from tanned deerskin.

Neopolitans King Webster and his friend Joan Schumacher visited the festival for the first time after living in the area for 24 years.

“I’d been wanting to come to see this over the years,” said Webster. “It was such a nice day today that we figured this would be a good opportunity to come. So here we are.”

Schumacher was thoroughly impressed by all that she saw.

A reenactment of Civil War field surgery was part of the Old Florida Festival.

A reenactment of Civil War field surgery was part of the Old Florida Festival.

“The reenactments and the artifacts, they’ve just go so much packed into this one beautiful area,” she said. “It’s really worthwhile. It’s really amazing. It is.”

Fabian and Jennifer Gamez were there with the three youngest of their four children, along with her parents.

“I’m impressed,” he said, while their son Christian, 8, tried his hand a lassoing a plastic steer’s head, nailing it on the first try. It was Gamez’s first time attending the festival. “I love history so I’m always intrigued and want to learn more,” he added.

Jennifer Gamez said she had brought their now adult oldest child there when he was little and she wanted the younger children to have the same experience.

“I home-school the kids and this is a nice, hands-on way to see the history that we’ve studied,” she said.

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