FORT PIERCE — History buffs and book lovers will enjoy a feast of the senses during the the Treasure Coast History Festival in downtown Fort Pierce on Saturday, Jan. 14.
The free festival, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will feature presentations on Treasure Coast historical events and an Authors Alley that will enable the public to meet many of the region’s leading authors and historians. A wide selection of books on the region’s history will be available for sale.
The festival also features historical tours by trolley, ghost-walking tours and various re-enactments and exhibitions, including an Old Florida cattle camp. The festival will be held on Second Street between Orange and Atlantic avenues in front of the Sunrise Theatre, 117 S. Second St.
Sponsored by Main Street Fort Pierce, the Sunrise Theatre and Indian River Magazine, the festival is intended to give newcomers a better sense of the region’s history while reacquainting old-timers with details of the Treasure Coast’s best-known stories.
The historical presentations, which are also free of charge, will be held in the Sunrise Theatre Black Box on the following schedule:
10 a.m. — A gathering of students of famed author Zora Neale Hurston. The author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and an inspiration to “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker, Hurston spent her final days in Fort Pierce working various jobs, including teaching English at Lincoln Park Academy in 1958.
11 a.m. — A discussion of the Binney, Putnam and Chapman families of Fort Pierce by author Sally Putnam Chapman. Her family members include: Edwin Binney, inventor of Crayola Crayons who later retired to Fort Pierce and was the driving force behind the dredging of the Fort Pierce Inlet and the construction of the Port of Fort Pierce; Binney’s daughter, Dorothy Binney Putnam, who became one of the region’s leading philanthropists; and Binney’s son-in-law, the famous New York publisher George Putnam who would later marry aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Earhart’s secret flight to Fort Pierce in the 1930s will also be discussed.
Noon — A talk by Vero Beach’s Al Grover, who will recall the trip he made across the Atlantic Ocean in 1985 in a small outboard-powered boat he designed. The feat, entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, made him the first and only person to ever cross the Atlantic in an outboard motorboat.
1 p.m. — An appearance by members of the Tommie family, descendants of Seminole royalty and perhaps the oldest family on the Treasure Coast.
1:30 p.m. — Research and remembrances of Lucia Zora, an early 20th-century circus performer who retired to Fort Pierce. An animal trainer once billed as “the bravest woman in the world,” Zora now lies buried in an unmarked grave in a Fort Pierce cemetery.
2 p.m. — A presentation by private investigator Warren Sonne, who retraced the steps of the famed Ashley Gang that roamed the Treasure Coast in the early 1900s, robbing banks and railroads and leaving lawlessness in its wake.
The festival will also include ghost walking tours hosted by Tom Adams, a Fort Pierce native and owner of Vero Beach Walking Tours. Main Street Fort Pierce will provide trolley rides to historical sites in Fort Pierce at 1 and 2:30 p.m. Cost of the trolley rides is $10 per person.
Throughout the day, historical re-enactor Jim Odell will portray Col. Benjamin Pierce, the brother of President Franklin Pierce and founder of the fort that gave the city its name. Storyteller and rancher Joyce Teague will set up a genuine early Florida cattle camp and will recall the days of the free range.
The Authors Alley will be held a across from the Sunrise Theatre in the historical St. Lucie County Bank Building.
Authors who will be available for signings and have books available include Rick Crary, author of “A Treasure We Call Home”; Sandra Thurlow, author of books on the histories of Stuart, Sewall’s Point, Jensen Beach and the House of Refuge; Catherine Enns Grigas, author of “Journey of the Highwaymen”; Janie Gould, author of “Floridays, Stories of Florida Under the Sun”; Gloria Taylor Weinberg, author of “A Homicide in Hooker’s Point”; and Allen Balogh, author of “Black Sails 1715,” an historical novel about the sinking of the treasure fleet off this coast 300 years ago.
Terry Howard, who has written a trio of books about commercial fishing in the region, will also be featured, as well as many other local authors.
The Authors Alley will also feature rare access to the collections of the Florida Classics Library, which specializes in the sale of out-of-print books. Books available from the Florida Classics Library include “Florida’s Ashley Gang,” “Florida’s Golden Galleons,” “Jonathan Dickinson’s Journal,” “Pieces of Eight,” “Search for the Atocha,: and many others.
All residents of St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties attending the festival will receive a free one-year subscription to Indian River Magazine.
For more information about the festival, call 772.940.9005.