History Festival celebrates 100th anniversaries of a school, a theater and a ranch
Three headliner sessions scheduled for at the annual Treasure Coast History Festival focus on the 100th anniversaries of one of Florida’s first high schools for black students, the boom-era Sunrise Theatre in downtown Fort Pierce and one of the region’s earliest cattle ranches.
The festival will take place Saturday, Jan 14, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Second Street in front of the Sunrise Theatre, 117 S. Second St., Fort Pierce. Besides historical exhibitions outside the theater, the festival also features three presentations inside the theater, all tied to events that began in 1923.
Access to all events at the festival, presented by Indian River Magazine and sponsored by St. Lucie Battery and Tire, is free. Also assisting in production of the festival are Main Street Fort Pierce, the St. Lucie County Historical Society and the Sunrise Theatre.
The first presentation inside the Sunrise Theatre begins at 9 a.m. and celebrates the centennial of the school that would become Lincoln Park Academy. Back in 1923, few black students were able to attend high school — there was no black high school south of Palatka — and local parents got together to begin a high school in Fort Pierce that would provide an education for black teenagers. The presentation features eight panelists deeply tied to the school, including former School Board member Samuel Gaines, who has written a history on Lincoln Park. Other scheduled panelists are Veryl Moore, Francina Mimms, Hassie Russ, Harry B. Williams, Ernestine English, Dorothy Jackson and Dave Perry.
The second presentation, at 10:30 a.m., celebrates the Sunrise Theatre, which opened as a vaudeville theater in 1923, the fulfillment of the vision of impresario R.N. “Pop" Koblegard. Two of Koblegard’s granddaughters, Wendy Bishop and Mary Ann Bryan, will help recall the theater’s early days and transition to a movie theater while other panelists, including Main Street Fort Pierce executive director Doris Tillman and Sunrise marketing director Anne Satterlee, will share how the theater was restored and reopened to its current splendor in 2006. The session includes a video presentation of rarely seen photographs tracing the theater’s history.
The final presentation inside the theater is at 12:30 p.m. and features a Cow Creek Reunion, bringing people together featured in Indian River Magazine’s Cow Creek Chronicles series that followed the lives of C.F. Raulerson, who founded what would become the Cow Creek Ranch on the St. Lucie-Okeechobee line in 1923, and his descendants. Scheduled guests on the panel include Debra Sloan, great-granddaughter of C.F. Raulerson and daughter of Jo Ann Raulerson Sloan and T.L. “Tommy" Sloan. Cowboys scheduled to appear during the presentation include former Cow Creek cowboys Buddy and Kent Mills, Deroy Arnold, now foreman of Triple S Ranch, Howard “Sport" Pickering, now an Okeechobee County sheriff’s detective and Bud Hallman, now a retired Sumter County circuit judge and rodeo performer. Also scheduled is Bertice Harper, who lived on Cow Creek in the late 1940s and is the daughter of longtime Cow Creek foreman John Norman. Woody Larson and Travis Larson, current owners of the home place at Cow Creek, also will appear.
The sessions are emceed by Gregory Enns, publisher of Indian River Magazine and author of the Cow Creek Chronicles series.
Planned exhibitions at the street festival include historical re-enactors from the Seminole War who established Fort Pierce, historical books for sale from the St. Lucie County Historical Society and the Florida Classics Library and exhibitions on the notorious Ashley Gang, a cow camp exhibition from Carlton family descendant Rick Modine, the history of the Spanish treasure fleet that sunk off our coast in 1715, the Navy SEAL Museum, the Treasure Coast Genealogical Society, the Port St. Lucie Historical Society, the Fort Pierce Art Club, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Fort Pierce Woman’s Club, Main Street Fort Pierce and Indian River Magazine.
The festival also features food vendors, including a genuine Summerlin family fish fry.