Free History Festival returns to downtown FP Saturday, Jan. 11

Larry Lawson leads a ghost tour
Larry Lawson leads a ghost tour during the 201 festival. JIM WILSON PHOTO

historical re-enactment
The Treasure Coast History Festival on Jan. 11 features historical re-enactments throughout the day.

FORT PIERCE — The Treasure Coast History Festival returns to downtown Fort Pierce on Saturday, Jan. 11, with an all-day event featuring historical re-enactors, ghost tours, historical trolley rides, sessions on historical topics and an old-Florida fish fry.

This is the fourth year of the festival, which highlights the history of the Treasure Coast. Free and open to the public, the festival is produced by Indian River Magazine Inc. in association with Main Street Fort Pierce, Sunrise Ford/Volkswagen, the St. Lucie County Historical Society, the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery and the Sunrise Theatre.

“This is our way of celebrating the rich past of the Treasure Coast,'' said Gregory Enns, publisher of Indian River Magazine and chairman of the History Festival. “We hope newcomers will attend to learn more about the history of the region while old-timers can reconnect with their friends.''

Beginning at 9 a.m., downtown will come alive with historical re-enactors ranging from Seminole War soldiers from the 1800s to early settlers in the 1900s who will depict life on the Treasure Coast.

Trolley tours will take participants to significantly important historical sites in Fort Pierce. For required reservations for the trolley tours, call 772.466.3880.

Free historical ghost tours led by paranormal investigator Larry Lawson will also be held throughout the day. Registration for those tours are taken on the day of the festival.

historical presentation
Attendees at last year's History Festival pack the Sunrise Theatre Black Box for one of the historical presentations. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO

Billy Johnson
Billy Johnson shares memories of his childhood growing up on the Indian River in one of the history sessions at the Black Box at the Sunrise Theatre.

Authors of books on the history of the Treasure Coast will also be featured in the festival’s Authors Alley. The alley will give visitors a chance to purchase locally written books and to talk to the authors.

The festival also features a fish fry hosted by the Summerlin Family, the first family of fishing on the Treasure Coast. The fish fry, which begins at 11 a.m., is $12 per plate and includes fish, cole slaw, baked beans and hush puppies.

Three sessions on historical topics will be held in the Black Box in the Sunrise Theatre. All the sessions are free and no reservations are required, though seating is on a first-come basis.

The first session, “Billy Johnson’s Fort Pierce,’’ starts at 9:30 a.m. and features social media personality Billy Johnson. Johnson’s posts about growing up in Fort Pierce have become widely followed on the Facebook page “The Fort Pierce Connection.’’ A nurseryman and landscaper and former commercial fisherman, Johnson vividly recalls his free-wheeling childhood growing up in Fort Pierce in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Archaeologist Alan Brech
Archaeologist Alan Brech will talk about the Ais natives of the Treasure Coast during the annual History Festival.

The second session, “The Ais Natives of the Treasure Coast,’’ begins at 11a.m. and features historian and archaeologist Alan Brech, who has discovered the location of seven Ais towns along the coast, including the paramount town near Sebastian. Long before Europeans and even the Seminoles, an ancient people known as the Ais roamed the Treasure Coast.

The third session, “We Remember Backus,’’ begins at 1 p.m. as relatives, friends and students recall the life of Florida’s preeminent landscape artist, A.E. “Bean’’ Backus of Fort Pierce, and how his art and life's work influenced generations of artists, and continues to inspire today.

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