Free history festival returns to downtown Fort Pierce Jan. 14

Descendants of the Cow Creek cowboys
Descendants of the Cow Creek cowboys will share their family’s folk traditions during the annual Treasure Coast History Festival.

Treasure Coast history will come alive in downtown Fort Pierce on Saturday, Jan. 14, as the 6th Annual Treasure Coast History Festival is celebrated.

This year’s festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Second Street in front of the Sunrise Theatre, 117 S. Second St.. Besides historical exhibitions outside the theater, the festival also features three presentations inside the theater, all tied to events that began in 1923, exactly 100 years ago.

Access to all events at the festival is free, compliments Indian River Media Group, publisher of Indian River Magazine, Space Coast Living, Fort Pierce Magazine and Port St. Lucie Magazine, and presenting sponsor, St. Lucie Battery and Tire. Also assisting in production of the festival are Main Street Fort Pierce, the St. Lucie County Historical Society and the Sunrise Theatre.

ort Pierce’s Lincoln Park Academy
The history of Fort Pierce’s Lincoln Park Academy, one of the first high schools for black students in Florida, will be presented during the Treasure Coast History Festival Jan. 14.

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 the school. Other scheduled panelists are Veryl Moore, Francina Mimms, Hassie Russ, Harry B. Williams, Ernestine English, Dorothy Jackson and Dave Perry.

the Sunrise Theatre
The 100-year history of the Sunrise Theatre will be discussed during a presentation Jan. 14 as part of the annual Treasure Coast History Festival.

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, 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.

Descendants of the Cow Creek cowboys
Descendants of the Cow Creek cowboys will share their family’s folk traditions during the annual Treasure Coast History Festival.

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 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, and several of the original Cow Creek cowboys who will talk about the early days of Florida cattle ranching and share their folk traditions that continue today.

historical re-enactment
The Treasure Coast History Festival on Jan. 14 features historical re-enactments throughout the day.

The presentations inside the theater are emceed by Gregory Enns, publisher of Indian River Magazine and author of the Cow Creek Chronicles.

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.

Access to all events is free and no tickets are required, but if you would like a guaranteed seat to the sessions inside the theater visit

For more information, call 772.940.9005 or email

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