LARGO - This year, communities all over Florida are recognizing the significance of the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León's arrival on Florida's east coast, as well as Florida's rich heritage and diverse cultural history.
Heritage Village is marking the milestone by housing a special exhibit that runs through the end of the year. Created by Lester Dailey, the exhibit “For God and Gold” features reproduction weapons, nautical items, clothing, camp gear, religious items and other objects depicting everyday life during the ocean crossing and the subsequent exploration and colonization of Spanish Florida.
As part of this statewide commemoration, the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, Heritage Village and the Pinellas County Historical Society will host a family-friendly event on Sunday, May 19, from noon to 4 p.m. at Heritage Village. A time capsule dedication is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. and family crafts, live music, storytelling and food vendors will be featured throughout the day.
The event coincides with a Speaking of History lecture on Spanish first contact and pre-Columbian settlements in Pinellas County. Jim Schnur and Elizabeth Southard will present the lecture Early Footprints in the Sand: Pre-Columbian Settlements along the Pinellas Peninsula and the Legacies of First Contact at 2 p.m. in the Pinellas Room.
During the lecture, visitors will learn about the Manasota, Weedon Island and Safety Harbor cultures that lived along Florida’s west coast before the arrival of the first Europeans. They will discover how the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, such as Juan Ponce de León who first visited and claimed La Florida as part of the Spanish realm 500 years ago, affected the pre-Columbian settlements.
As part of this program, participants will see an assortment of shell and stone tools, as well as pottery remnants, discovered along area shorelines. These items, now part of a collection at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, provide evidence of cultures that called Pinellas home more than 500 years ago.
Schnur served as the Pinellas County Historical Society’s official historian of the Pinellas centennial of independence from Hillsborough County. Archivist and librarian at USF St. Petersburg, Schnur has taught college courses in Florida history since 1996. All author royalties from his newest book, Historical Pinellas: A Centennial History, benefit the Pinellas County Historical Society’s efforts at Heritage Village.
Southard, a December 2012 graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, participated in many anthropology labs and site visits. She is involved in cataloging the pre-Columbian artifacts at the library and plans to continue her studies in graduate school.