History Fest

Photo courtesy of Jim Wilson

Larry Lawson leads a ghost tour during the 2018 festival.

TREASURE COAST — The Treasure Coast History Festival, an all-day event featuring historical re-enactors, ghost tours, historical trolley rides, sessions on historical topics and an old-Florida fish fry, makes a return to downtown Fort Pierce on Saturday, Jan. 12.

This is the third year of the festival, which highlights the rich history of the Treasure Coast. Free and open to the public, the is produced by Indian River Magazine Inc. in association with Main Street Fort Pierce, the St. Lucie County Historical Society and the Sunrise Theatre.

“This is our way of bringing old-timers who love our history and newcomers and visitors together to learn more about the history of the Treasure Coast,’’ said Gregory Enns, publisher of Indian River Magazine and chairman of the History Festival.

Throughout the day, beginning at 10  a.m., downtown will come alive with historical re-enactors ranging from  Seminole War soldiers from the 1800s to early settlers in the 1900s who will depict life on the Treasure Coast. 

Trolley tours that take participants to significantly important historical sites in Fort Pierce are scheduled for 1 and 2:30 p.m. For required reservations for the trolley tours, call 772.466.3880.

Free historical ghost tours led by paranormal investigator Larry Lawson will also be held throughout the day. Registration for those tours are taken on the day of the festival.

Authors of books on the the history of the Treasure Coast will also be featured in the festival’s Authors Alley. The alley will give visitors a chance to purchase locally written books and to talk to the authors.

The festival also features a  fish fry hosted by the Summerlin Family, the first family of fishing on the Treasure Coast. The fish fry, which begins at 11 a.m., is $12 per plate and includes fish, cole slaw, baked beans and hush puppies.

Three sessions on historical topics will  be held in the Black Box in the Sunrise Theatre.  All the sessions are free and no reservations are required, though seating is on a first-come basis.

The first session, “Pirates of the Treasure Coast,’’ begins at 10 a.m. and features historian and educator Allen Balogh, author of the pirate novel “Black Sails at Sunset.’’ Balogh will talk about the sinking of the Spanish fleet off the Treasure Coast in 1715. The spill or riches off the seas prompted an invasion of pirates, and Balough will talk about those who lived during the Golden Age of Piracy: Benjamin Hornigold and his prodigy Blackbeard, along with Black Sam BellamY, Paulsgrave Williams, Harry Jennings and the insidious Charles Vane. Also appearing on the panel with Balogh will be Dr. Robert Farley, professor of history at Indian River State College.

The second session in the Sunrise Theatre Black Box, “Find Your History and Save ITt’’ begins at 11:30 a.m. The session will offer tips on researching your own family and local history and the resources available to conduct research.   Panelists include Adam Neal, editor of Treasure Coast Newspapers, Nancy Bennett, director of the St. Luce County History Center, and Pam Cooper,  supervisor of the Archive Center & Genealogy Department for the Indian River County Main Library.   The panel will also  discuss the region’s historical documents — newspapers, photographs and oral histories — and the efforts to convert them for digital access. 

A final session at 2 p.m., “A History of Seminole Culture,’’ features Florida State University professor Andrew K. Frank, whose presentation is sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council with funds from the Florida Department State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. Frank’s research focuses on the history of the Seminoles from their origins to the present.

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