DOWNTOWN — The dedication of a 112-foot flagpole in Plant Park at the University of Tampa on Wednesday will kick off GreenFest, the annual gardening festival featuring 96 vendors on the campus waterfront. The ceremony culminates months of work by volunteers from a nonprofit group.
Sue Isbell, president of Friends of Plant Park, the nonprofit dedicated to park improvement, said the project gives a visual reminder about the park's history. During the 1880s, Henry B. Plant was building an empire of railroads, steamships and hotels. He financed the historic hotel that now operates as the Henry B. Plant Museum, just off the park grounds.
Isbell's group, which formed in 1993, has worked diligently on a master plan and funding for the park. The $65,000 flagpole, made and installed by a Texas company, is part of that plan.
“At 12 feet shorter than the 124-foot high minarets, you can see it from all over town,'' said Patsy Woodroffe, co-chair of the dedication ceremony. "We're replacing the flagpole at the same height as Mr. Plant's original."
Organizers will hoist three flags: a 12- by 18-foot replica of the 45-star American flag flown at the hotel in 1896, a Florida state flag and the UT flag.
Near the pole is a Victorian star-shaped garden bed planted with holly, petunia, baby's breath, begonias and other annuals. Volunteers will change the flowers three times a year. This is also a replica of a flower bed from Plant's era.
Funds came from the Community Investment Tax, with money provided by the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County. Over the years, the Friends of Plant Park's annual GreenFest raised more than $130,000 for the project, Woodroffe said, including the flagpole, signs and repairs to the Civil War-era cannons that Plant had moved from Fort Brooke to his hotel garden.
The flagpole dedication will take place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. It is open to the public.
Friends of Plant Park and the Fort Brooke Commission have invited the Buffalo Soldiers, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the First U.S. Volunteer Rough Riders to participate. UT's ROTC color guard and the UT Wind Ensemble will perform. Mayor Pam Iorio and County Commissioner Ken Hagen are among the scheduled speakers.
A GreenFest luncheon at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Tampa Yacht Club benefits the Friends of Plant Park. Horticulturist Maryon Marsh will discuss "Herbs: Aromatic, Culinary and Medicinal." Tickets cost $60. Go to tampagreenfest.com or call (813) 902-0750. GreenFest takes place March 27 and 28.
Amy Scherzer contributed to this story.