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Council/CELCAB begin VIVA 500 event plans

May 29, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A Viva Florida 500 Educational Conference is is the planning stages now that the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and its Cultural and Environment Learning Center Advisory Board have discussed the matter at a joint meeting between the two groups.

There are hopes that the Mound House museum may be open at the time of the future event. A date for the conference has yet to be decided.

"We have a very unique archaeological site that is a perfect location for a Viva 500 conference," said CELCAB chairperson Barb Hill. "The timing could be perfect for our launching of the opening of the Mound House to coincide with this conference to show that this is a cultural destination now. Scholars will come to the conference to study about the Calusas and the Spanish explorers in Florida."

Article Photos

Members of the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and Cultural and Environment Learning Center Advisory Board discuss the initial plans for a Viva Florida 500 Educational Conference.

Beach Mayor Alan Mandel thought a conference and the official opening of the Mound House would be "wonderful" and would like to make the conference international to include scholars from Spain. He hopes the Lee County Tourism Development Council will consider advertising the Beach event in archaeological magazines.

"Whatever we do program-wise for this, it could be the model for annual conferences that continue during the offseason," he said.

Town Manager Terry Stewart will look into the Florida League of Cities annual municipal achievement awards. This year, the organization is modifying the award categories to deal with history and its programs.

"I think that our programs that we have at Mound House and Newton House is uniquely qualified to be submitted. An 1,200-word-limitation application has to be submitted by October," he said.

Council would need to authorize the application before submittal. Stewart and CELCAB members will begin putting the application together.

The information will be assembled at the next CELCAB meeting, slated for the June 27, at 3 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

"I think the ramifications of a conference of this kind will have tremendous benefits for the Town going forward," said Hill.

Back in April, the Florida Department of State commemorated Florida's 500th anniversary, one that began when Ponce de Leon became the first European to arrive in the current U.S.

"Viva Florida 500 is a year-long commemoration, but we believe it is important to draw extra attention to the week of Ponce de Len's arrival because of its historical significance for our state and nation," said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. "Florida is truly the place where the world's cultures began to unite and transform into the great nation we know today as the United States of America."?

On or around April 2, 1513, Juan Ponce de Len became the first recorded European to arrive on Florida's shores or anywhere else in the current United States of America. He is also responsible for giving Florida its name, calling it La Florida because of the land's lush plant life and in honor of Pascua Florida, the Eastertime Spanish Feast of Flowers taking place at the time of his arrival.?

Viva Florida 500 is a statewide initiative led by the Florida Department of State, under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, to highlight the 500 years of historic people, places and events in present-day Florida since the arrival of Juan Ponce de Len. The Viva Florida 500 commemoration is ongoing throughout 2013, and includes hundreds of events statewide and nearly 2,000 partners.



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