BROOKSVILLE — What started out as a day to honor veterans with the annual Veterans Appreciation Parade on Saturday has grown into a two-day celebration to honor not only veterans of all wars, but also the history surrounding those wars.
Where History Lives, sponsored by the Hernando Preservation Society, kicks off today with a military display at Brooksville City Hall and tours of the Hernando Heritage Museum and the Brooksville Historical Train Depot.
The museum is a four-story mansion on Saxon Avenue built in 1856. It features more than 10,000 artifacts. The 1885 train depot, on Russell Street, offers a Cracker Country display, train memorabilia and a restored 1935 La France fire engine.
Saturday morning's parade is a separate event, spearheaded by community activist Anna Liisa Covell and the city of Brooksville. Festival organizers hope folks stick around afterward for the activities that will follow.
"The parade is just great," said Jan Knowles, chairwoman for Where History Lives. "Veterans get pushed aside sometimes, and we wanted to do what we can to celebrate them. … This event is to honor veterans of all wars, starting with the Seminole Wars through present-day soldiers."
The festival kicks into gear on Saturday when the parade ends. There will be first-person demonstrations with veterans, vendors, organization booths, living history demonstrations, walking tours and a Civil War skirmish at Tom Varn Park.
Knowles said this is the first fundraiser of the Hernando Preservation Society. "We hope to get the word out that we exist," she said.
The society is a nonprofit group that is a committee of the Hernando Heritage Museum. Its president, retired paleontologist David Latasi, and all of the members are volunteers in charge of research, archaeology digs and other historical research in the county.
"We do everything in conjunction with (the University of South Florida)," Knowles said. "One of our biggest projects is the Bayport Shipwreck Project," which involves various Civil War-era shipwreck sites around Bayport. She said the society is also involved in a Civil War historic trail that will run through three counties.
Knowles said one of the highlights of the festival, at least for the preservation society, is an educational program today at Hernando High School. While the closed event includes a number of historical demonstrations, it also involves the kickoff of an essay contest for students to write about veterans in Hernando County who have had an impact on their lives. Essays will be due in February, with winners announced in March.
Activities will conclude Saturday with a tour of the old Brooksville Cemetery with Kathleen Hoodwick.
"It is really going to be great," Knowles said. "It is a 45-minute history of the cemetery … and will be different than tours that have been given in the past."
Organizers hope this will become an annual event.
"You have to start somewhere," Knowles said. "Hopefully next year will be even bigger."