PLANT CITY – The elaborate pine needle baskets on display at Pioneer Heritage Day brought back memories for Mary Bryan, who said she wove them as a child at Dover Elementary School. “But nothing like these.”
The baskets, created by Diane Heister and Karen Thaler of Zephyrhills, featured dyed pine needles woven with centerpieces of shell, bark and stone. Some included sweetgrass from South Carolina, Heister said.
Thaler had brought a 1917 reprint of a federally issued booklet on how to make pine needle baskets in schools, which was taught in Hillsborough County in the early 1900s.
Such pieces of the past abounded at the Nov. 9 event, sponsored by the East Hillsborough Historical Society. Young ladies and lads opened the event with a strolling dance down the red brick street, and costumed characters roamed the halls of the 1914 Plant City High School Community Center.
Jean Barker Weaver greeted visitors to a room filled with the stylish attire of days long gone by. Weaver’s own fashionable ensemble was a white eyelet gown and large flowered hat.
Visitor Donna Hallback admired her clothing. “You just don’t find older material like eyelet anymore,” she said.
On the third floor, while visitors wandered in and out, Plant City artist John Briggs chatted with musician Hart Hogan in the former classroom-turned-exhibit space. The room contains some of Briggs’ extraordinary large-scale, realistic landscapes of Florida. In front of one window, a grouping of his son Andrew’s raku pottery invited inspection, as well. Although Briggs has several projects ongoing in his studio, he said he isn’t doing a lot of shows. “This is the first father/son show we’ve had,” joked Briggs.
In the Pioneer Heritage and Henry B. Plant Historic Railroad Club museums, 4-year-old twins Serina and Sienna clambered on a conveniently-placed platform to watch model trains rumble down the tracks. Later in the day, accompanied by parents Jorge and Debbie Goncalves, the girls got a meet-and-greet with Brooklyn, Bonnie and Kippy, arguably the coolest celebrities of the day for youngsters.
The three horses were brought to help celebrate Pioneer Heritage Day by the Bay Area Bandits, a mounted shooting club based in Turkey Creek.
Lady Leatherneck (aka Deanna Long) rode Brooklyn, a 10-year-old registered Rocky Mountain. “He’s an athletic, versatile horse … and a ladies man,” Long said.
Little Joe Dalton (aka Glen Yeater) paired up with Bonnie, a 20-year-old Arabian rescue, and Slowpoke (aka Jack Dixon) saddled up Kippy, a 7-year-old Paint mare.
The group, which also brought fine leatherwork by Dixon, said a shooting demonstration was put on hiatus because city permits hadn’t been obtained in time for the event.
“We’re getting a lot of questions about guns and the sport,” said Slowpoke’s Darlin (aka) Lori Canada. “Most of us can sit on a horse and be a passenger,” Canada said. “We help perfect riding techniques. We like to help people learn to ride and to shoot.”
The club meets at the Florida State Fairgrounds on the first Saturday monthly, except in December, and practice meets are held in Turkey Creek at the Double T Ranch, Canada said. “The youngest (member) is 6 and the oldest is 84.”
While gunfire had been nixed, there was plenty of music, singing and dancing. Though many dances and songs were set to a current beat, a few older numbers were slipped in the mix.
Children and youths performed enthusiastically on the stage outside the community center, while relatives and guests took photos and shot videos.
NRG (Next Radical Generation) singers got the ball rolling early. Arie Fry, 14, Ashtyn Steele, 14, Emmy Media, 13, Marlee Arn, 14, and Bryson Keel, 14, have been performing about three years, assisted by business manager Jourdain Cole, 14, and technical producer Jacob Cothren, 14.
They were followed by NRG junior performers, and groups from Dance Connection performed various songs and dances throughout the day.
Tim Allen hoisted Kenley, 3 ½, on his shoulders to give her a better view of the singers and dancers. From her perch, Kenley shared her excitement with mom Kim. At 11 a.m. she would become one of the Dance Connection performers on stage.
Artist Dave Wilson of Seabreeze Studios in Zephyrhills whiled away the time at his exhibit by painting a beach view.
“Painting is a good idea. People like watching,” he said of his mixed-media works, which depict rustic scenes of old Florida. “A lot of people still enjoy the rustic and the old.”
Nearby, vendor and photographer Susan Overbo made cards with images of nature.
“I get out in creation and I love to be out there,” she said. And she enjoyed event. “It’s free music. There are Crackers, horses.”
Sydney Baptist Church members sold crafts and handiwork at the event for the first time, Missions Director Beverly Simmons said. Any funds raised at the event were destined for the Lottie Moon campaign. The goal of the campaign, she said, was to raise $6,000.
Also new was PeerPal, a campus violence prevention system, which set up an educational exhibit on the ground floor of the community center.
“PeerPal uses techniques and technologies that addresses internal and external threats that schools face,” said Elissa-Beth Gross, executive director. Founded in September 2012 as a non-profit, the Plant City-based effort offered information and literature on how PeerPal could perform risk mitigation and address problems at schools.
Shelby Bender, historical society president and executive director, said this year’s Pioneer Heritage Day included many new participants and vendors, and estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people attended the event.
“This is the best Pioneer Day we’ve had in years. We have had a lot of people,” she said.
“The best part is seeing all the kids having a great time.”