The annual Founders’ Day celebration is March 8. There will be a parade, a 5-kilometer race and a one-mile fun run. And for some folks, that’s all they need to know.
And that’s a shame, because Founders’ Day is about more than floats and a race. It’s about history (this is the 104th incarnation of this event, so that should tell you something). It’s about Zephyrhills — not Tampa, not Dade City, and not other areas close to Zephyrhills, although the weekend events will attract people from all over.
Whether you were born here (and a lot of you were) or you moved here (that number is growing all the time, too), you have a stake in this area. Even if you’re one of our seasonal residents, you make this your home. And that means you should dig into its history, because there’s a lot of interesting things to be found.
Before you pack up the family and head out to Founders’ Day and its related events, here are a few things you should know:
• Zephyrhills used to be called Abbott. But that was more than 100 years ago, so no need to worry about updating your address labels or anything.
• Zephyrhills used to be a colony. The Zephyrhills Colony was envisioned as a location for Civil War veterans (on the Union side) to relocate and get involved in farming and manufacturing. In fact, the first newspaper was the Zephyrhills Colonist.
Now, what’s the difference between a small town and a colony? Not too much, but it’s a neat part of history, isn’t it?
• The name was a little unclear in the beginning. Don’t be too hard on your out-of-town family members if they don’t know whether you live in “Zephyrhills” or “Zephyr Hills.” It confused people right from the beginning.
It was called both of those, and occasionally “Zepherhills,” too.
Newspaper articles sometimes referred to the company that purchased the land as the “Zephyr Hills Colony Co.,” and at other times the “Zephyrhills Colony Co.”
• Zephyrhills has always had a rich military history. In addition to attracting Civil War veterans, special land deals were granted to veterans of the Spanish-American War. How’s that for history?
And during World War II, the airport was used as a training base.
Zephyrhills might not have been front and center during wartime, but the military always has been welcomed and honored here. That’s important.
• Zephyrhills celebrates its history. If you’ve lived in several different places during your life, you’ve probably realized that not every city marks its anniversary. Some don’t acknowledge it at all, some have a leader give a short speech, and others slap a plaque on a landmark and are done with it.
But you live in Zephyrhills, there’s a parade. It’s not Mardi Gras, and it’s not even Gasparilla, but it’s a real parade that gets people excited — and it’s ours.
The 5k race is a tradition, too. Even if you don’t run in it (I get tired just driving 5k in my car), it’s a big deal. People go just to show support and cheer.
And really, that’s Founders’ Day in a nutshell. People going to show support and cheer — for the runners, for the city and for its history. It’s a fun time, but it’s more than just your average let’s-have-a-race morning or parade based on fictional history.
It’s Founders’ Day. So enjoy it.
Published March 5, 2014