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Fort Pierce history festival marks 100-year anniversary of a theater, school and ranch

EntertainmentFort Pierce history festival marks 100-year anniversary of a theater, school and ranch

The Treasure Coast History Festival is back this weekend for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic.

The free event will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on Second Street in downtown Fort Pierce, both in front of and inside the Sunrise Theatre. There will be historical exhibitions outside the theater and presentations inside the theater, said organizer Gregory Enns, publisher of Indispann River Mspangspanzine.

The event celebrates the 100th anniversaries of three local institutions:

  • Lincoln Park Academy, one of Florida’s first high schools for black students
  • The land boom-era Sunrise Theatre in downtown Fort Pierce
  • Cow Creek Ranch, one of the region’s earliest cattle ranches.

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The festival will feature:

  • Historical re-enactors from the Seminole War who established Fort Pierce
  • Historical books for sale
  • Exhibits on the notorious Ashley Gang
  • Cow camp exhibition from Carlton family descendant Rick Modine
  • Spanish treasure fleet that sunk off the coast in 1715,
  • Navy SEAL Museum
  • Treasure Coast Genealogical Society
  • Port St. Lucie Historical Society
  • Fort Pierce Art Club
  • Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Fort Pierce Woman’s Club
  • Main Street Fort Pierce

The event also includes food vendors and a Summerlin family fish fry.

No tickets are required, but attendees to the popular presentations can guarantee a seat inside the theater by going online to indispannrivermspangspanzine.com.

Lincoln Park Academy

The first presentation inside the theater begins at 9 a.m. and celebrates the school that would become Lincoln Park Academy. In 1923, not many black students were able to attend high school because there wasn’t a black high school south of Palatka. Local parents banded together to start a high school in Fort Pierce that would provide an education for black teenagers. The presentation features eight panelists deeply tied to the school, including former St. Lucie County School Board member Samuel Gaines, who has written a history on Lincoln Park, as well as Veryl Moore, Francina Mimms, Hassie Russ, Harry B. Williams, Ernestine English, Dorothy Jackson and Dave Perry.

Sunrise Theatre

The second presentation begins at 10:30 a.m. and celebrates the Sunrise Theatre, which opened as a vaudeville theater in 1923 thanks to the vison of R.N. “Pop” Koblegard. Two of Koblegard’s granddaughters, Wendy Bishop and Mary Ann Bryan, will help recall the theater’s early days and transition to a movie theater while other panelists, including Main Street Fort Pierce Executive Director Doris Tillman and theater marketing director Anne Satterlee, will share how the theater was restored and reopened to its current splendor in 2006. The session includes a video presentation of rarely seen photographs of the theater’s history.

Cow Creek Ranch

The third presentation begins at 12:30 p.m. and brings together the people featured in Indian River Magazine’s Cow Creek Chronicles series. It followed the lives of C.F. Raulerson, who founded what would become the Cow Creek Ranch on the St. Lucie-Okeechobee line in 1923, and his descendants. Scheduled guests on the panel include Debra Sloan, Raulerson’s great-granddaughter; cowboys Buddy and Kent Mills; Deroy Arnold, now foreman of Triple S Ranch; Howard “Sport” Pickering, now an Okeechobee County sheriff’s detective; Bud Hallman, now a retired Sumter County circuit judge and rodeo performer; Bertice Harper, who lived on Cow Creek in the late 1940s and is the daughter of longtime Cow Creek foreman John Norman; and Woody Larson and Travis Larson, current owners of the home place at Cow Creek.

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