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Celebrate Ozello's historic charms

Over the last 40 years or so, the settlement of Ozello has moved southwest about 16 miles.

Of course, I don't mean the actual, physical entity has moved. It has been pretty much in the same place geographically, give or take an island or two, since the late 1800s. But, according to official state of Florida road maps of the 1950s, Ozello was located about 2{ miles northwest of Red Level in northern Citrus County. And, as anyone who's taken the long, leisurely drive down Ozello Trail through the saw grass marshes and palm trees knows, that cartographic glitch has been corrected and the community is planted firmly where it's always been, roughly 12 miles southwest of Crystal River off U.S. 19.

The misplacement of Ozello on the map, however, may have been symbolic. Its sense of isolation and mystery has always been part of its charm, a charm that anyone can observe Saturday as Ozello celebrates its ninth annual Pioneer Days.

The free event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the Ozello Civic Association building about 6 miles southwest of U.S. 19 on Ozello Trail. Barbecue chicken and rib dinners including potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, rolls, dessert, iced tea and coffee will be sold. A display depicting Ozello's early days can be viewed in the civic association building.

More than 40 craftspeople and artists will display and sell their work. Among them will be Phyllis Milton who paints and sketches both natural and historical scenes unique to the area.

Milton, a former commercial artist, moved out of Ozello temporarily after a 15-year stay when the "no-name storm" devastated her home and studio. But she and her husband, Bob, are making plans now to move back.

"I missed all of the scenes I had always painted and sketched," Milton said. "I missed getting out on the St. Martin's River in my canoe and seeing all of the things I used to see on the islands: the plants, the animals, the old houses."

"Some of the things I've painted and drawn have become historical pieces because they don't exist anymore," she said.

For information about Ozello Pioneer Days, call Betz Whittle at 795-6435 or Carl Benson at 563-5387.