Thursday, July 05, 2012

An Old Fashioned 4th of July

Our Independence Day celebrations start early in Gainesville, Florida with Fanfare & Fireworks on July 3. It's patriotic and goodtimes music at the University of Florida bandshell at Flavet Field (Question for all the new Gators: What famous Floridian is Flavet Field named for?

Answer--No one. It's a trick question. After WWII the GI Bill brought a huge influx of married veterans and their families.  Wooden shacks [seriously] were brought in from army bases to house them.  These sweltering roach motels were called "Flavets", for "Florida Vets". There's a certain amount of pride in being able to say "I was a Flavet baby" when you come to UF.)

Why the 3rd? The sponsors insist it's because so many folks go to the beach on the 4th. I believe it's because fireworks displays are substantially less expensive on July 3rd.

So after a spectacular evening of music, fireworks, excellent weather and a stop at Sweet Dreams Home Made Ice Cream I was ready for the 4th of July.

For the big day I like to put the top down on my convertible and drive 15 miles south to Micanopy, Florida. Micanopy is a tiny little town with a great deal of charm, one main street (Cholokka Blvd.), antique shops, cafes, B&Bs and a museum, seen below.

The events start with a parade down the Boulevard and while I arrived too late for that, I did catch a glimpse of the cowboys on their Cracker ponies, dressed in the fashion of their 19th C. ancestors. I also arrived in time for the fish fry to raise funds for the museum, and enjoyed a plate of fried fresh Florida flounder (say that three times, fast!), hush puppies and coleslaw under a shady tree. After lunch I toured the museum and got a glimpse of Micanopy's past, including this moonshine still.

The town claims the distinction of being the oldest inland Anglo-American settlement in Florida, as opposed to St. Augustine or Pensacola, which were founded by the Spanish.  In 1814 "Ft. Mitchell" was named the "Capitol of East Florida" by invading Americans during the Patriot War, and in 1821 a trading post was established for trading with the Indians and settlers. The trading post had eight buildings and they traded pipes, coffee, sugar, guns and tools to the Indians in exchange for alligator and deer hides, and tobacco.

After I toured the museum I walked the few blocks of Cholokka Blvd., stopping at O. Brisky Books, a used bookstore popular with Florida writers and readers as well as tourists. I purchased a history of 19th C. Key West and one on 18th C. Florida and the Revolutionary South, then stopped for ice cream at Coffee and Cream. I sat out on the front veranda, enjoying the live music and appreciating again how older buildings in Florida took advantage of the shade and cool breezes to offset the 95F July weather.  Below you can see the hardest working member of the band.

It was, from my point of view, a perfect Fourth of July in Florida. I got my fireworks, a fish fry with hush puppies, music, history, small town celebrations and ice cream (twice!).  If you and your family celebrated America's birthday, I hope it was equally enjoyable.

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