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Wakulla Springs Hosts Heritage Carnival

Wakulla Springs State Park

For thousands of years, the area just south of what is now Tallahassee was home to incredible herds of prehistoric animals and bustling Native American communities. All this history comes to light during the upcoming Wakulla Springs Heritage Carnival on February 1st.

Dr. Madeline Carr has spent much of her adult life researching the ancient origins of the territory between the Gulf and what is now Tallahassee.

“That whole area – Wakulla County and south Leon County before they became counties – there were thousands and thousands of Creek Indians living here. So some of the research that we want to show is the heritage of the river. So we have Aute, the first village that we know in writing that the Spanish Conquistadors came to in 1528.”

That was a whole 11 years before Hernando DeSoto’s famous Christmas mass near present day Myers Park.

“And then after that we had Francis Town with the prophet Josiah Francis,” Carr continued. “He moved all of his Upper Creek people to the Wakulla River and had Francis Town there just before the Seminole War started. And then we have the Kennards in between all of this and they were Lower Creeks. And because there was this feud, the Creek Wars, the Lower Creeks are at (Wakulla) Springs, Francis Town is down on the east side of the river.”

And for thousands of years before then, Wakulla Springs attracted animals and people to its pure, refreshing waters. Amy Conyers manages Wakulla Springs State Park today.

“We are small blips on this long timeline of history,” she observed. “It’s exciting to be part of it and exciting to know all the people who came before us.”

For the past 3 years, there’s been some kind of winter festival at Wakulla Springs. But this year, because of the growing flood of historical research on the area, Madeline Carr organized an event that reveals and celebrates the area’s prolific past.

“We’ve got Dale Cox coming dressed as Prophet Francis and his daughter Millie Francis. They’ll be there in their attire. And we have the Black Seminoles represented with Hyde Park, a community on the river. And then the Kennard Settlement will be discussed just briefly with maps because we don’t really don’t know too much about what the buildings were like when they had a trading post there.”

Conyers says it all happens Saturday, February 1st at Wakulla Springs State Park.

“It kicks off at 11 a.m. with a drumming circle and then we’ll have several booths set up on the terrace at the Lodge. Those will be windows into history so you can see different aspects of the cultures that existed along the river in the past. And we’ll have the Common Taters and Turnups giving us a musical performance and we’ll have a wonderful buffet lunch with aspects of the Caribbean. We’ll have jerk chicken, pigeon peas and rice, fried plantains and pineapple salsa.”

The significance of the island menu? It appears the area was considered the “gateway to the Caribbean” by its early settlers and there was constant commerce between the two regions. Carr said the Wakulla River Heritage Carnival is a ticketed event.

“And you can get the tickets online at: www.wakullasprings.org.”

And as the archeologists and historians continue their work, the only question is: what’s the next amazing find that will emerge from the sandy soil of Wakulla County?

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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