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Festivities to mark Zephyrhills' 100th anniversary

ZEPHYRHILLS

Like the thousands who would follow in his footsteps, Howard B. Jeffries left the chilly north for the pastures of east Pasco looking for a place to retire.

Jeffries fought for the Union army in the Civil War, first as a private in the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry, later as a captain leading the 72nd United States Colored Infantry, which had been organized in Covington, Ky. In the decades after the war, he headed south in search of sunshine.

A century ago he founded the retirement colony that became Zephyrhills. He marketed it to Union veterans — including some who wanted to supplement their military pensions by doing some farming on the side, local historian Madonna Jervis Wise said.

The Northerners have been coming ever since.

The enclave Jeffries founded March 10, 1910, celebrates its centennial this weekend with a dance tonight, a parade Saturday and a picnic Sunday. And while it remains a popular place for retirees, younger generations have made it their home, too.

In 1990, the median age in town was 59, according to the U.S. Census. A decade later that dropped to 49.

"I think we're getting away from that," Mayor Cliff McDuffie said of the city's identity as a retirement community.

Consider the city's dog park, skateboarding park, bustling schools and status as a skydiving mecca.

The early promotional materials for the city promised nothing short of utopia: "No hurricanes, no fear of frosts, no mosquitoes, gentle slopes and good drainage, pure air and clear skies, wonderfully pure water … good soil, gentle breezes but no piercing winds, and of course, no sleet or chilling rains, no blizzards," read a 1911 sales pitch in the Zephyrhills Colonist.

McDuffie said that description has stood the test of time — notwithstanding the storm that ripped through the city Thursday afternoon.

"I think we can add to that good people and good roads and a friendliness that makes you feel like you've come home," he said.

Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at bgrumet@sptimes.com.

If you go

Join the fun

Zephyrhills will celebrate its centennial with festivities throughout the weekend.

Today: An old fashioned barn dance will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. at Zephyrhills High School, 6335 12th St. Cost is $5; proceeds benefit the school's chorus program. Carnival rides and games will be available from 5 to 10 p.m. in the Village Inn parking lot, 5214 Gall Blvd.

Saturday: Activities will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. along Main Street, including the parade at 10 a.m. There will also be educational displays, time-period games and entertainment, food and craft vendors, kids' activities, a Capt. Jeffries look-alike contest and more. A historical marker will be unveiled at 2 p.m. at Stewart Middle School, 38505 10th Ave., the site of the original Zephyrhills High. At 7 p.m., there will be sky divers, entertainment and fireworks at Zephyr Park, 38116 Fifth Ave.

Sunday: A community church service will be held at 11 a.m. at Zephyr Park, followed by a picnic that runs until 4 p.m. Food will be available for purchase. There will be games, entertainment and the burial of a time capsule.

For info: Visit http://zephyrhills100.com/events.

Festivities to mark Zephyrhills' 100th anniversary 03/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 9:12pm]

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