Our Special Events aim to educate the public about life in Southwest Florida in the 19th and early 20th centuries and development of the Manatee lands.The Manatee County Historical Commission believes that history lays the groundwork for strong, resilient communities. Understanding who we are, where we came from, and why is vital to developing a sense of place, which connects people to each other and to their community. Special events like these allow us to broaden the reach of our mission to include new audiences and to encourage the appreciation and preservation of our rich local heritage. They are designed to make local history accessible and engaging – even for those who may not consider themselves “history buffs.”
Heritage Days Open House now in its 38th year, is a free event held each March, and was developed to bring new visitors and old friends to Manatee Village Historical Park to celebrate Old Florida. During this event, visitors can discover what our community was like fewer than twenty years after the first pioneers arrived. Take a step back in time to mid-1860s Southwest Florida and experience life in Manatee County through living history interpreters and re-enactors presenting daily activities, military camp life, music, dance, and heritage crafts.
A Florida Cracker Christmas**, held each December, celebrates 100 years of holiday tradition in Florida. What began in 2009 as a way to show off splendid Victorian Christmas decor - lovingly created and donated by a dedicated volunteer floral designer - has become a favorite holiday tradition for local families. Now in its 7th year, this event includes family-friendly entertainment, heritage artisans, “make and take” seasonal crafts for adults and youth, visiting vendors and vintage silent holiday films, and even a Victorian Father Christmas - something to delight every age!
Spirit Voices from Old Manatee** premiered in 2011 as an original living history program. For three weekends in October, volunteer actors in period dress personify Manatee’s early pioneers. Their graveside dialogs are based on factual, historical records and local legends. They convey tales of triumphs, tragedies, humorous anecdotes and common humanity. The program is an experience like no other, unfolding at the Old Settler’s House at Manatee Village Historical Park with a Victorian wake and continuing by torch-light, as the sun sets at the 1850 Manatee Burying Grounds.Many visitors leave the show deeply moved, with a new appreciation for the differences and similarities they discover between themselves and the characters they come to know through the program.
Financial support is essential to present an entertaining show, support crowd control volunteers and committed volunteer actors, and to provide for guest safety and comfort.
** A Florida Cracker Christmas and Spirit Voices from Old Manatee are designated as official "fundraisers" but these programs have also been effective "friend-raisers", forging new creative community partnerships. Funds raised through ticket sales help to support our mission of "Preserving Our Past to Enrich Future Generations" through community educational programming and preservation efforts at Manatee Village. For more information on becoming a sponsor for one of our Special Events, contact Village staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-749-7165.