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Florida Heritage Travel, February 2012-Revised
January 26, 2012

February 2012 News And Events

Florida Heritage Travel is the companion monthly e-zine of



Henry Flagler was the visionary pioneer who was more responsible than anybody else for the development of Florida's east coast. He extended the railroad from St. Augustine to Palm Beach between 1888 and 1894 and built huge hotels at stops along the way.

He might have been content to stop his venture in Palm Beach where he built his large home, Whitehall, but bad freezes in 1894 and 1895 changed his mind. Much of the tropical vegetation and citrus in the Palm Beach area was destroyed by the freezes.

Florida lore says that Miami's Julia Tuttle sent Flagler a nice fragrant orange blossom from Miami that had escaped the freezes. He was persuaded by this to extend his railroad to Miami. Miami was not a real seaport back then, so Flagler became fascinated by the idea of extending the railroad all the way to Key West. Key West was the nearest deep water port, and Flagler wanted to do business with Cuba only 90 miles away from Key West.

The Florida Keys were a string of small islands scattered in a line heading southwest from the mainland about 150 miles to Key West. Detractors of his idea called it Flagler's Folly. But Flagler was not a man to be easily discouraged. He and his engineers and contractors began to connect the islands of the keys with bridges and causeways and laid the track all the way to Key West.

It took 7 years before the railroad was finally completed in 1912. It was the first time in history that people had direct connection other than by water to all of the keys. It was called by many the 8th wonder of the world.

Henry Flagler died in 1913, but his companies continued to operate the railroad and hotel properties. The railroad did a brisk business transporting freight and passengers to Key West and on to Cuba and back. In 1935 the huge Labor Day hurricane wiped out most of the railroad and killed more than 400 people, many of them World War One veterans who had been working on various construction projects in the area. After the hurricane, the rails were finally ripped out and the old railroad route and its bridges were rebuilt as a roadway for autos and trucks known as the Overseas Highway.

Next time you're rolling down the highway to Key West listening to Jimmy Buffet on your CD player or Eight Track, remember Henry Flagler and his folly.


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February in Florida has some of the best weather anybody could ask for, and it even gets nippy, by Florida standards, once in awhile. Tourism starts to pick up after Thanksgiving in the central and southern parts of the state. Locals like to crank up their fireplaces now and then, especially in North Florida where freezes take place from time to time.

Here are some interesting events around Florida for February 2012.


FLORIDA WINERIES. Check the Florida winery nearest you. Many of them have wonderful weekend events that include music and wine tastings. Our site has information on 18 wineries scattered across the state.

FLORIDA FESTIVALS. The weather is still a bit cool, so there are not too many outdoor art festivals and folk and bluegrass music festivals this time of the year.

FLORIDA ZOOS. Florida has many zoos, and Florida zoos offer an interesting and inexpensive way to spend a day or more.

FLORIDA BEACHES. Almost anything you decide to do in Florida can be enhanced by spending some quality time at a great beach, and best beaches in Florida will guide you in the right direction.

FLORIDA MUSEUMS. Many Florida art and historical museums have scheduled events. Click on the links to find out what is going on.

FLORIDA THEATER. This is an active time for plays and musical events in our many Florida theaters.. Check the links to find out what might be interesting to you.

FLORIDA AUTHORS. February is a good time to curl up next to the fireplace and read a book by a Florida author. Our most visited author page is now that of Harriet Beecher-Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Palmetto Leaves.


Sandestin Gumbo Festival. February 18. The 23rd Annual Sandestin Gumbo Cook-off is back at The Village of Baytowne Wharf this year. Guests can sample gumbo and Bloody Mary's, voting for their favorite as People's Choice. Celebrity judges will hold blind judging contests for the "Area's Best" awards for gumbo. The award for Best Display, which goes to the business or restaurant with the most innovative booth, will also be announced. Ticket holders will enjoy family entertainment and live music throughout the entire weekend.


Southeast Region Pigfest BBQ/Musicfest . February 18-19. North Florida Fairground, 414 Paul Russell Road, Tallahassee. This two day annual event is a combination BBQ contest, arts and crafts festival, music festival, battle of bands contest and classic car show. In addition to the entertainment there is plenty of food like ribs, pork shoulder, chicken, wings, sausage. It's great fun and the proceeds go to a charity that helps poverty stricken people in North Florida. You gotta love any event with Pigfest in its name.


Palatka Bluegrass Festival. February 16-18. Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, 380 Boys Ranch Road, Palatka. This is a big time bluegrass event with many high quality groups performing over the three day period. Admission is $30 for any given day. The music is performed under a pavilion with seating provided, but you should bring your own chairs just in case.


Vero Beach
Gardenfest. February 4-5. This event attracts more than 20,000 garden enthusiasts each year. Over 75 vendors, chosen by invitation, display a wide variety of native plants, orchids, herbs, succulents, roses, ferns, shrubs, bamboo, palms, fruit trees and more – all complemented by garden accessories including pottery, fountains, furniture and lighting. There are also youth activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a food vendor offering a wide variety of choices from his open grill. In another area, local experts will be answering questions for the general public – look for the “Ask The Expert” tent. Raffle tickets will be sold for many lovely prizes. The drawing will be at 3:30 Sunday in the Food Court area, but you do not need to be present to win! This is an event for the family and for all who like being in the out-of-doors, since it is held under the lovely oaks in Riverside Park at 3250 Riverside Park Drive.



Mount Dora
The 37th Annual Mount Dora Art Festival. February 4-5. Always held on the first weekend of February, this nationally ranked fine arts festival attracts 285 artists from all over the world. The fine arts are displayed throughout the downtown village attracting thousands of visitors. For more information please call the Mount Dora Center for the Arts. Phone: 352-383-0880. .


Florida State Fair. February 9-20. Tampa Fairgrounds at I-4 and US-301. This is the mother of all Florida fairs and has been entertaining folks since 1904. The fairgrounds has a very large midway with more than 100 various rides and games and plenty of fair food. You can find any variety of fried foods, cotton candy, ice cream and much more. Floridians come from all over the state to exhibit their crafts and handiwork. Lots of kids from 4H and FFA show off their animals and expertise. You can also visit Cracker County, a village that shows what Florida was like more than 100 years ago. There are plenty of hotels in the area so you won't have any trouble finding a room whichever of the 12 days you attend.


Fort Myers
ArtFest Fort Myers. February 4-5. This southwest Florida art festival takes place in vibrant downtown Fort Myers. Each year Fort Myers’ only free, two day art extravaganza, takes over the downtown area with exceptional artwork, entertainment and children’s art activities. Visitors can enjoy and purchase artwork in a variety of mediums and prices from nationally recognized artists from across the country and around the world.


Coconut Grove
49th Annual Coconut Grove Art Festival. February 18-20. Celebrating its 49th anniversary in 2012, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival is the nation’s top outdoor fine arts festivals. The three-day festival showcases the works of over 360 of the finest artists and craftsmen in the world. A signature event of the South Florida cultural calendar, the Arts Festival is a true “Celebration of the Arts” offering visitors the opportunity to meet with exhibiting artists, sample fine cuisine, enjoy live entertainment and take in the tropical waterfront views of Coconut Grove.

Information on the towns and places hosting these events, or near them, including lodging, can be found at Florida Towns.

If these events aren't convenient for you, try here for additional events.

In our current slow economy, some events are cancelled on very short notice. I do my best to ensure that our information is correct and current, but I recommend you call before leaving for the event to make sure it's still on.


One Flight Up
400 North Donnelly Street
Mount Dora, Florida 32757

Thanks for subscribing to Florida Heritage Travel. We will see you next month with more updates and event information.

Regards, Mike Miller
Chief Backroads Traveler

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