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Safety Harbor celebrates its first Grapefruit Legacy Fest


Frenchman Odet Philippe, believed to be Pinellas County's first European settler, sailed into what is now Safety Harbor in the 1830s. He's credited with cultivating Florida's first grapefruits.

There's no way he could have known that he was sowing the seeds for the city's first Grapefruit Legacy Fest.

On Saturday, Safety Harbor will honor the man and the fruit with a celebration mixing fun, history and the town's connection to Philippe.

"Our family is deeply honored," said Ruth Pedigo, wife of Robert Pedigo, a direct descendant of Philippe. "We're sending invitations across the state to our relatives in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa and Key West to join the celebration."

While the Grapefruit Fest technically begins when Main Street closes to traffic around 5 p.m. Saturday, the events begin tonight and run all day Saturday.

"It's going to be a lot of fun and eclectic," said Nancy Foster, co-chair of the event. "At the Saturday Farmer's Market, Walgreens is having an Easter photograph shoot. We'll have a Civil War re-enactment right after we plant the ceremonial grapefruit tree at the Historical Museum."

Philippe, a colorful character who has several myths surrounding his life, planted fruits at his plantation on the shores of Old Tampa Bay. His efforts led to the spread of citrus in Florida.

A new exhibit on Philippe is at the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History, where admission will be half-price from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tocobago Kayak Tours will offer half-price narrated tours, with views of the city from the bay.

And for those who want to walk the grounds where the groves were planted, at 1:30 p.m. historian Dick Estes will lead a guided tour of Philippe Park, which was originally Philippe's plantation.

Fruit-filled stories will be read to children at the Safety Harbor Public Library beginning at 10:30 a.m., followed by an arts and crafts project to create bird feeders from grapefruit hulls.

The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa is offering grapefruit-themed specials in honor of the festival.

Once traffic is stopped on Main Street, the fest officially begins. A grapefruit recipe contest will have residents competing for bragging rights.

"We are pretty excited about the contest," said Michelle Hirschberg. "The only rule is that all recipes must have grapefruit as an ingredient. It can be a drink, dessert, main dish — any category as long as it contains grapefruit. It's nice because we have celebrity judges to decide the winners."

The judges include Mayor Andy Steingold and Larry Cotton of Larry's Good Eats on the nationally syndicated TV show Daytime. Recipe entry forms are available from the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce. All the recipes will go into a cookbook, Hirschberg said.

Several bands will be playing music at the event. And there's an original Grapefruit Line Dance, which Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Safety Harbor created for the occasion.

And while strolling around Safety Harbor, look for the recently painted grapefruit murals on the facades of the library, museum and Chamber of Commerce. Foster says the murals' artists might pop up at the Grapefruit Legacy Fest — an event that was just an idea six months ago.

"The way the Grapefruit Legacy Fest came about was so serendipitous," said Darlene Trieste, the chamber's chairwoman. "Nancy Foster and I were talking at a luncheon in October. She wondered why Safety Harbor had never celebrated its connection to grapefruit."

The Philippe citrus legacy

. Count Odet Philippe was Pinellas County's first nonnative permanent settler.

. The Hurricane of 1848 that cut John's Pass also devastated Philippe's groves.

. Philippe's plantation, St. Helena, became Philippe Park in 1948.

. Philippe died in 1869. In 1963 he was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, located at Florida Southern College.

Grapefruit Legacy Fest

When: 6-10 p.m. today; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday

Where: Main Street, Safety Harbor

Cost: Free admission. Food and drinks for sale. Once Main Street is closed, beer and frozen grapefruit margaritas will also be for sale.

Information: (727) 726-2890 or

Safety Harbor celebrates its first Grapefruit Legacy Fest 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 4:35pm]
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