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Pioneer Heritage Day to celebrate the past

PLANT CITY –Travel back in time on Nov. 9 during the 36th annual Pioneer Heritage Day, when scenes from the late 1800s suddenly sprout in and around the 1914 Plant City High School Community Center, 605 N. Collins St.

The event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is a free, family-friendly celebration that includes more than a little taste of tradition.

Festival-goers can hobnob with real-life Florida Crackers and tradespeople, watch pioneers demonstrate old-time skills and sample Florida Cracker foods.

Southern Belles dressed in period costumes will stroll along streets, where hayrides suddenly become a favored mode of transportation.

The usually genteel event might get a little rowdy this year, when a new group of participants ride into town. The Bay Area Bandits, a mounted shooting club, will bring horses, spurs, side arms (with non-live ammunition) and a Cracker cowboy vibe to the venue, said Shelby Bender, East Hillsborough Historical Society president and executive director.

The festivities also include arts and crafts, exhibits and vendors, bake sales, a quilt show and live entertainment. There will be children’s activities such as bounce houses and face painting.

Visitors also can tour multiple rooms in the Pioneer Heritage Museum and Henry B. Plant Historic Railroad Club Museum and model train layouts.

The Pioneer Sweetheart Pageant, which debuted last year, will get underway at noon in the 1914 PCHS Center auditorium for girls age 13 months to 18. In keeping with the pioneer theme, participants ages 10 to 18 will be asked to share a historical fact about the county.

“It brings the community together and gives them an opportunity to have an appreciation for their history and heritage,” said Bender. “And it’s a wonderful opportunity for new people to learn something about Plant City and east Hillsborough County.”

The tradition began in the late 1800s as The Old Timers’ Picnic, held in Alderman’s Ford. It later moved to Gilchrist Park in Plant City, and for the past 36 years has taken root at the 1914 PCHS Center under the sponsorship of the historical society.

Following the pioneer day events, the Florida Opry revs up at 6 p.m. to the sounds of Amanda and Scott Anderson and the Stringbreak Band from Gainesville.

Proceeds from Pioneer Heritage Day and Florida Opry benefit the restoration of the 1914 PCHS Community Center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The three-story, red-brick school, which opened its doors to the first students in 1914, turns 100 next year.

“Our number one priority,” said Bender, “is public awareness of the importance of the preservation of your history and heritage.”


If you go

What: 36th annual Pioneer Heritage Day

Where: 1914 Plant City High School Community Center, 605 N. Collins St.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 9

Cost: Free; food and crafts available for a charge

Information: (813) 757-9226 or email [email protected]

What: Florida Opry

Where: 1914 Plant City High School Community Center, 605 N. Collins St.

When: 6 p.m. Nov. 9

Cost: $12 adult; $5 students; pre-show dinner $8

Information: (813) 757-9226 or email [email protected]

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