Lyle Polyak is the winner of centennial poster contest. His poster is being used to promote centennial events.
LARGO – Pinellas County turned the big 100 this year, and everyone is invited to a birthday party to celebrate.
Pinellas County officially separated from Hillsborough County on Jan. 1, 1912 after residents rebelled against the lack of services being provided to the peninsula. Soloman Smith Coachman, one of the first commissioners, sponsored a street dance in Clearwater to celebrate the momentous occasion.
County residents are celebrating again 100 years later at Pinewood Cultural Park, Sept. 14-16.
The kick-off event is an invitation-only Centennial Ball on Friday, Sept. 14, at the Florida Gulf Coast Center for Fishing. Key dignitaries have been invited to dress up in their “angler attire” to kick off the weekend of celebration.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, everyone is invited to come out for the Fish 5K and 1-mile Fun Run at Walsingham Park, 12620 102nd Ave. N., Seminole. The 5K run begins at 7:30 a.m. The fun run begins at 8:30 a.m.
Registration fees are $20 before Sept. 9 and $25 thereafter. The event is limited to 400 participants. If space is available, there will be late registration the day of the event. All pre-registered participants will receive a T-shirt and get access to a post-race party at 8:45 a.m. Awards will be presented to the top three male and female in various age groups.
A pancake breakfast will be served from 8 to 11 a.m. in the Center for Fishing’s courtyard. Cost is $5 for all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage, including water and juice. Gourmet coffee will be available for $1 more. Advance tickets will be available at the Fishing Center’s front desk, Sept. 10-14.
The formal dedication ceremony is at 11 a.m. and will include speeches by local dignitaries and dedication of a time capsule. Winners of the Tampa Bay Times Essay Contest and the Raymond James Art Contest will be announced and scholarships will be awarded to the winners.
A family fish fry will be the highlight on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16, beginning at noon each day. For $10, get all-you-can-eat fish, coleslaw, baked beans, chips and dessert. Soda and bottled water will be available for $1. Advance tickets will be available at the Fishing Center’s front desk Sept. 10-14.
Other activities are planned hourly throughout the event, according to Jessica Espaillat, Center of Fishing event and marketing coordinator. Activities include an archery booth, interactive fishing games, cast netting games, art activities and movies. The Rays Street Team will be on hand Saturday offering pitching and batting games. Tours of the 30-acre Florida Botanical Gardens and 21-acre Heritage Village along with other special activities also will be available.
Heritage Village will celebrate the lifestyle of the county’s early pioneers with children’s activities, blacksmithing, antique cars, fiber arts demonstrations and house tours. There also will be food vendors and exhibits by area historical societies and book sales and signings by local authors. Activities are planned on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
The celebration ends Monday night at Tropicana Field as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Boston Red Sox, starting at 7:10 p.m.
Sponsors for the celebration are Baycare Health Systems, Progress Energy, Raymond James, Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Rays, Tradewinds Island Resorts and Visit St. Pete Clearwater.
Espaillat said the Florida Gulf Coast Center for Fishing had asked to sponsor the county’s centennial celebration. She said budget problems had prevented the county from being able to fund an event, so “we asked if we could host it.”
“This is great for us,” she said. “People can come and see who we are and what we do.”
The Fishing Center, which moved into the former Gulf Coast Museum of Art building in May, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children after life through fishing, to providing a center for activity for the local marine community and to commemorating the past, present and future of fishing on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
The center is part of the county’s new history, having opened in January of the centennial year.
“Fishing has been a huge part of the county’s history,” Espaillat said. “We think it fits (to host the celebration). It makes sense.”