Manatee County Heritage Days in March

A special event for each day of the month is planned for the county

Florida Maritime Museum 1912 Schoolhouse on the Cortez Nature Preserve
Florida Maritime Museum - One of the historical parks in Manatee County with many events planned.

As we approach March we begin the start of multiple-week festivals, the first of which starts Friday for the entire month, the 40th Annual Manatee Heritage Days. Nearly every day there is a program at one of 13 participating organizations to display the wealth of history in the county. Some of the historical sites that require admissions have waived their fees on special days during the month to highlight their programs.

The special events are also meant to draw attention to the historical parks in the county. These are the Manatee Village Historical Park in Bradenton, The Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez, the Manatee County Historical Records Library in Bradenton, the Palmetto Historical Park and the Manatee County Agricultural Museum in Palmetto. Each has its own unique records for preserving the heritage of the county.

When Manatee County had reached its legal population in 1855, it was formed as the size of seven current counties. Hardee, Desoto, Highlands, Charlotte and Glade counties were separated out on May 9, 1887. Sarasota County was split off on May 14, 1921. The Historical Records Library has files from all seven counties dating back to 1856.

Heritage Days events slated for the historical parks in Manatee County

The Manatee Village Historical Park at 1404 Manatee Avenue East preserves the early history of this large land mass, comparable to the size of Connecticut when all the counties were combined as one. Some buildings of the period from 1840 to 1918 have been restored and are open to the public.

In the village are an original general store, church, courthouse, school and blacksmith shop. The pioneer Stephens family of 12 has their 1912 home preserved in the village. The history of Manatee County wouldn’t be complete without mention of John Fogarty and the family shipbuilding business. One of his original boat works buildings is in the park. The Fogartys settled along the Manatee River because there was a prevalence of wood for shipbuilding and fishing was a way of life for them.

On March 6 there is a free two-hour walking tour of Fogartyville starting at 10 AM as part of Heritage Days. The Historical Park is open 9 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Friday, and the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. Free guided walking tours are available through reservations on their website. These 45-minute separate tours explore the village and 1850 burial grounds.

The Florida Maritime Museum in the historical fishing village of Cortez is home to cultural maritime artifacts packed into a restored 1912 school house on four acres of land on 119th Street. For Heritage Days there is a special coffee with the staff on March 23 from 9 to 11 AM. The museum is free and open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM. With the permanent exhibits, temporary displays continue the mission of providing education of the fishing culture. The current exhibit is Always Ready, featuring the U.S. Coast Guard in Florida.

A special fundraising dinner with Pulitzer-prize winning author Jack E. Davis at the Seafood Shack in Cortez is set for 6 PM on March 14. He will discuss topics from his book The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea. Profits from the dinner will add to the museum donation campaign to raise $34,290, which will be matched by the Manatee County Tourist Development Council when the goal is reached.

The Folk School at the Florida Maritime Museum is a converted early American store and post office that served the fishing village. The Burton Store was the first commercial building in the village, constructed in 1890 on the Cortez waterfront. It was later expanded into the Albion Inn on the current site of the U.S. Coast Guard Station. In 1991 the inn was demolished and the original building was moved to its current location on the grounds of the museum. The beautifully restored building opened in February of last year. The classes are taught by professionals that preserve the traditional skills of the Florida fishing culture. Registration is required and a list of classes is on their website. The Pillsbury Boatshop and a Chickee Hut are also on the museum grounds.

The first county archival library in Florida is located within the Carnegie Library at 1405 4th Avenue, West in Bradenton. Built in 1918 the Carnegie Library has been on the U.S Department of the Interior’s Registry of Historic Sites since 1987. A treasure of collections exist within the Manatee County Historic Records Library.

The records that date back to the beginning of Manatee County include maps, public family records, county commission minutes, real estate records and court filings. The library is free to use but there are charges for copies, photos can be taken by your personal camera without a fee. The library is open during the week from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. As part of Heritage Days a two-hour walking tour of the historic buildings in downtown Bradenton is scheduled for March 13, beginning at 10 AM.

The Manatee County Agricultural Museum provides a hands-on learning experience for school children through group tours and specially designed educational programs. School field trips designed around local agriculture are also arranged through the museum located at 1015 6th Street in Palmetto. The Hall of Fame is a permanent exhibit at the museum, drawing attention to prominent citizens of Manatee County, two each year from 1967 to present.

The Palmetto Heritage Festival will be held at the museum and the Palmetto Historical Park from 10 AM to 2 PM on March 9. The local post office will be conducting a special one-day stamp cancellation in honor of the Heritage Days festivities. Live music, food, demonstrations and building tours are planned for this special day. A Chicken & Yellow Rice luncheon will be served at the Woman’s Club of Palmetto starting at 11 AM.

On March 27, a special Heritage Days, Ag at Night program is scheduled to begin at 7 PM at the museum. Based on the theme Eat Your Fruits and Veggies, the presentation will focus on growing these edible plants in the sunshine of Florida. For adults only, pre-registration is required by email or through their special event website. The Ag at Night program is a series with continuing dates of Homesteading in Florida on May 29 with Plants and Pollinators scheduled for July 31.

Other Manatee County programs and festivals centered around Heritage Days

DeSoto National Memorial - National Park Service
Camp Uzita - Daily programs and a special event on March 23 is in the plans at DeSoto National Memorial.

Travel back in time to 1539 when the Hernando DeSoto expedition began its reign of conquests in the area. Demonstrations at Camp Uzita in the DeSoto National Memorial of Bradenton will highlight the clothing and armor worn by the explorers. Spanish and Native American life of the times will be discussed in these programs four times a day, starting with the first at 10 AM Thursday through Sunday. While DeSoto was searching north for gold, 100 of his men protected his supplies at Camp Uzita. On March 23 a special presentation, Five Centuries of Florida History, will feature over 30 actors who will reenact different periods from DeSoto to present day in the memorial park.

A history of tourism in Manatee County will be on display in a month-long exhibit, Marvelous Manatee, in the Eaton Historical room of the county central library located at 1301 Barcarrota Boulevard in Bradenton. This exhibit celebrates the changes in tourism from the 1900s to present. The exhibit is open at different times of day, Monday through Saturday.

Each Friday of March a free Music in the Park concert will be held at the Riverwalk Mosaic Amphitheater in downtown Bradenton. Food and beverage sales benefit Realize Bradenton, your chairs or blankets are welcome while enjoying local band music that starts at 6 PM. The group BABYL will take the stage March 15, followed by Kettle of Fish, March 22 and Passerine, March 29.

Enjoy free open houses of the 19th century house that serves as the visitor center for Robinson Preserve and the Jiggs Landing Fish Camp cabin each Saturday during Heritage Days. Explore the historic house with its flora at Robinson Preserve, the history of Palma Sola and review photos of the home that was transported from Palmetto through the Manatee River to its current location. The replicated Jiggs Landing cabin will serve as the venue for a presentations on the history of Jiggs Landing, Braden River and Evers Reservoir. It will be open from 9 AM to 1 PM each Saturday.

Mainly Art featuring local artisans will expand the Farmer’s Market during Heritage Days in historic downtown Bradenton from 9 AM to 2 PM each Saturday in March. Family activities are also planned for these pet-friendly events, free to the public with free parking on Saturdays.

There are vents planned for nearly every day through the month, associated with Heritage Days. Some of the most notable not mentioned above include the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Annual Heritage Day festival this Saturday starting at 9 AM in the Historical Park on Pine Avenue. The Parrish Heritage Days Parade and Festival starts at Parrish United Methodist Church and ends at the festival grounds of the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish. A Chili cookoff, local bands perform and family-oriented experiences are also planned.

On Sunday the Gamble Plantation tour will be free for the historic state park’s annual open house. Open from 10 AM to 3 PM, volunteers will dress in clothing of the era from the 1840s to 1870s. The 4th Florida Volunteer Infantry will re-enact a Confederate encampment on the grounds of the plantation in Ellenton.

The Winter Seminar of the Manatee Genealogical Society will be hosted at the Manatee Technical College on March 16 from 8 AM to 4 PM. The editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly journal, Dr. Thomas W. Jones, will be the featured speaker. Visit their website for more information and to register for this Heritage Days event. Also on that Saturday, meet historical fiction author Peggy Donoho, and follow the discussion of her great-grandparents Miguel and Frederica Guerrero starting at 10 AM in the Palmetto Historical Park.

There will be a reception for members and volunteers of the Reflections of Manatee at the Theodosia Curry Museum House in East Bradenton from 5 to 7 PM on March 23. An exhibit funded by the Florida Humanities Council will highlight the Angola’s Freedom Seekers and the Florida Underground Railroad. The display with special guests will be open to the public on March 30 starting at 10 AM, closing at noon.

A guided tour of the historic 1899 Alkire home on Riverside Drive in Palmetto will be open to the first 30 people who register for the event at their Eventbrite special webpage. This historic home has been beautifully restored by its current owners. The tour is sponsored by the Palmetto Historical Park and Manatee County Agricultural Museum. All the events for Heritage Days are listed on the upcoming events page.

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