Saturday, December 22, 2007

Remember the Festival of States?

Do you remember the annual Festival of States (now called the Sunshine Festival)? When I was in elementary school (North Ward), we got off school a half-day in the spring to go see the parade in downtown St. Petersburg. At that time each of the "state societies" (clubs formed by people who wintered in town from Ohio, Michigan, New York, etc.) sponsored a candidate for queen of the festival.

The young women (around 18 years old or so) got their "stage training" at the Charm School, held at Al Lang Field (if memory serves me) and then they competed (bathing suits and all) in a contest for the queen's title.

Later, the competition changed its qualifications and today the young women seem to be chosen from prominent local families. (Correct me on that one if I'm wrong.) I think the bathing suit part of the contest has long since vanished. In today's version, there is also a "Mr. Sun" (a prominent business person) who is crowned at the ball, along with the new festival queen. Then they share a place on a special float in the parade.

On a spring day (usually March or April), I can remember as a kid the thrill of seeing colorful floats, hearing the marching bands (both in-state and out-of-state) and seeing the Shriners clowns in funny outfits and tiny bicycles.

1 comment:

lgbritner said...

Never missed the Festival of States from the first opportunity, 1950 for me at the age of nine, until graduation in 1958 at age 17. The organization it must have required, and every year the parade was flawless, a "must see" in any personal scheme of things. It was a reason to visit St Pete on its own merit, and from time to time in being elsewhere would bill it as such in talk of my hometown.