13th Annual Florida African American Heritage Celebration at Heritage Village
11909 125th St. N.
Largo, FL 33774
Price: Free to Visit
Event Date and Hours: Saturday, February 25, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Heritage Village Normal Hours: Wed to Sat – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun -1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Closed Mon, Tues and all county holidays
Parking: Free parking and a shuttle to the event entrance at 119th Street between Ulmerton and Walsingham roads. Handicapped parking and a drop-off at the former Gulf Coast Museum of Art, 12211 Walsingham Road
Sponsored by Pinellas County African American History Museum
1101 Marshall Street
Clearwater, FL 33755
Admissions: Adults: $5, Children: $3
Hours: By Appointment Only
The North Pinellas County African American History Project was formed in 1999 as a way to collect photographs, oral histories and artifacts pertinent to the history of the African American communities that have resided in Pinellas County over the past 135 years. A year later, the African American Heritage Celebration event was created as a way to gather local African Americans to help identify people in the old photographs that had been collected. Attendees are also encouraged to bring family artifacts and old photographs to add to the project’s historical archive.
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This year’s celebration will not only honor African American heritage; it is also the 100 year anniversary of the formation of Pinellas County. Held on Saturday, February 25, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., this exciting event involves many community members and will include art, music, dance, choir performances, storytelling, poetry, historical preservation and ethnic food.
Tours are available through Heritage Village’s 28 historic structures in a natural pine and palmetto setting, including a school, church, sponge warehouse, railroad depot, store, homes, cabins, fire station, old cars and wagons. Visitors can see living history as volunteers re-enact the lives of people in Pinellas County in the 19th century.
Highlights of this year’s event:
Professor Randy Lightfoot, a St. Petersburg College educator and a historical scholar, will present a lecture on the early history of Pinellas County at 11 a.m. He will discuss John Donaldson, one of the first permanent settlers here, who signed the petititon to separate Pinellas County from Hillsborough County in 1912. This year, Pinellas County commemorates 100 years of independence from Hillsborough County. Mr. Lightfoot will cover the period in which this county was a haven for runaway slaves.
Dancing and singing will be presented in a step show alongside performances by community choirs at this year’s event. This year for the very first time, the gospel performances will be merged on the same stage as the steps performances. In previous years, there were always two separate stages for the dancing and singing events. One of the featured groups will include a gospel choir from the Walmart store. Walmart has been a supportive sponsor of the choirs for the past eight years, from the inception of the gospel stage. There will be other renowned local choir groups and soloists as well.
Enjoy performances by jazz musicians and local musical artists from our community throughout the day. Kids will enjoy storytelling, face painting, and an arts and crafts areas. A social services information area will also be available, along with a marketplace and food court, where event goers can try a variety of delicious ethnic food.
Because this year’s event was nearly canceled due to budget cuts, community support is needed. People interested in donating to the event may call Sandra Rooks or Randy Lightfoot. Both the museum and this event are not-for-profit, and funds donated through the museum may be earmarked for this festival.
Sandra Rooks, Executive Director, Pinellas County African American History Museum
Museum phone: (727) 499-8067, cell (727) 480-7572
Randy Lightfoot, Board President, Pinellas County African American History Museum
Museum phone: (727) 499-8067, St. Petersburg College (727) 712-5766
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Sarah Dees is an accomplished artist, writer, educator, and entrepreneur, with over twenty-five years of professional experience. Sarah attended Eckerd College for two years, and graduated with a BFA from Parsons School of Design in New York City. She is a freelance writer in Tampa Bay. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.