Florida history comes alive
Learn trades, stories and customs at festival
If you go
22nd Annual Old Florida Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today
Where: Collier County Museum, 3331 U.S. 41 E.
Cost: $5 adults, $2 for children (8 to 18), children younger than 8 are free. Parking is free.
More information: (239) 252-8476
NAPLES — Collier residents can travel back in time today — without the need for a DeLorean.
The 22nd annual Old Florida Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, at the Collier County Museum, 3331 U.S. 41 E.
Designed for the entire family, the annual two-day living history event brings together craftworkers, folklorists and historical re-eneactors from all over the state to revive and recapture the sights and sounds of more than 10,000 years of Southwest Florida history.
On Saturday, Collier Museum Director Ron Jamro said between 1,500 and 2,000 people attended the festival’s first day and museum staff expects a bigger crowd today.
Along with live re-enactments of war battles and live performances by American Indian dancer and flutist Ed WindDancer, visitors can also see demonstrations on broom-making, net-making, telegraph operation, soap-making, leather smith and more.
For Collier County native Lisa Griffith, Saturday’s trip to the festival was a pleasant surprise.
"I’ve never been here. My boyfriend comes every year … and has to come here because he loves it," said Griffith, 34, with a smile. "This is so cool! I would have never known this was here."
Along with her boyfriend Jimbo Carriero, 49, Griffith also attended the festival with her 6-year-old son Colton Jecker. The three visited all the re-enactment camps, took a quick break to eat some sandwiches and rock candy before finally sitting down to watch the historical timeline and weapons firing demonstration.
"I can’t believe we’re right here in the middle of town," she said. "It’s very educational for me and the kids."
Carreiro, an Old Florida Festival aficionado, said he was glad the couple got to attend the event with Colton.
"It’s one of Naples’ best kept secrets," he said.
Re-enactor Ralph Smith said he participates in events such as the Old Florida Festival to share his family’s history.
"I’ve been doing this kind of a thing for close to 30 years," said Smith, of North Port, who re-enacts the Black Seminole experience. "It’s part of my ancestry."
Decked out in a 1700s Seminole warrior outfit, Smith regaled visitors Saturday with the history of blacks in Florida, from the founding of Fort Mose Camp — the first free black community in America — and how many blacks joined the state’s Native American tribes in what later became known as the Seminole tribe.
The amount of knowledge and passion by the re-enactors, did not go unnoticed by visitors.
"Fantastic!" said seasonal Naples resident Janice Hoeschler, 61. "This is not just a rendezvous, this is informative. It’s teaching us. I’m just very impressed with this. It’s a quality event."
Proceeds from the Old Florida Festival help to fund the Museum’s educational programs, such as the Children’s Museum Express, a highly successful Friends’ program that underwrites transportation costs for Collier County students and enables classes to visit the Museum when no other funding sources are available.