It will be the largest celebration Zephyrhills has seen in 100 years and thousands will flock to the city to participate in Founder’s Day this weekend.
“We are ready to present a memorable experience,” said Brenda Welcher, executive director for Main Street Zephyrhills Inc. “I’m not sure how long we’ve been doing the event, but Main Street has been putting Founder’s Day together for a number of years now. We are honored to be doing it for the centennial celebration.”
The three-day event begins March 12 with a “barn dance” at Zephyrhills High School from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is $5.
The majority of the celebration will happen March 13, with the parade beginning at 10 a.m. on Fifth Avenue.
“The parade is the highlight for me,” said Madonna Wise, who is on Main Street’s centennial committee. “This year it will be even more special with how Main Street is doing it.”
There will be 10 grand marshals this year — one for each decade the city has been in existence. Each grand marshal was selected to represent the decade that they or their family made significant contributions to Zephyrhills. The parade’s theme is “celebration of generations” and each marshal will ride in the float for his or her decade.
One of the grand marshals is George Neukom, whose family moved to the area before it was called Zephyrhills. Then it was called Abbott Station.
“Zephyrhills is my home and I think a lot of it,” said George Neukom, whose family will be representing the 1910s. “I’ve been here all my life. Zephyrhills is a huge part of my life and what we are as a family…My family has seen this city go from Abbott Station to Zephyrhills, so we’ve seen it literally go from A to Z.”
The festivities will go from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 13 at Zephyr Park and around the city. The event will continue the next day at the park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Founder’s day will kick-off the celebration of the centennial in the city,” Wise said. “We will be having events later in the year to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Zephyrhills High School in October and that will basically end the celebration. It’s great how everyone has gotten together for the anniversary.”
Founder’s Day was first celebrated at least as far back as 1926. At that time it was called Homecoming Day and one of the events was the selection of Miss Zephyrhills according to an article in the Sept. 29, 1927 edition of an old newspaper called the Colonist.
“For their parade everyone just marched up and down the street,” said Margie Partain, a member of the board of directors of the Zephyrhills Historical Association. “It’s not like now where they have floats and everything else. It has gotten a lot bigger today.”