Grandpa, tell me ’bout the Good Ol’ Days … not just the words to a country song, but a reality for many on Saturday as the Polk County Parks and Recreation Department hosts the Good Ol’ Days Festival in Heritage Park in Homeland.
Kicking off at 10 a.m., Polk’s hidden treasure will celebrate the county’s heritage with old-fashioned activities, says Heritage Park specialist Daniel Gornoski.
Gornoski says the festival, which will last until about 2 p.m., will feature pioneer games, butter churning, ice cream making, roping demonstrations and leather crafts for the children in the Kid’s Zone.
There also will be live music all day, geared to the types enjoyed by Polk’s pioneers, Gornoski explains.
Under pioneer experiences for all ages will be craft demonstrations that show how early pioneers lived and worked, first-person interpretations gleaned from Polk’s history. Also on hand will be members of the African-American U.S. Army’s Buffalo Soldiers who will discuss their unit’s activities in the Civil War and other campaigns into Florida and out west.
There will be a Victorian tea served from 10-11 a.m., again from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m and finally from 1 to 2 p.m.
“That will give people an idea of what some social gatherings of the time were like,” said historians.
The Festival is free and open to the public. It will be at the Homeland Heritage Park on Church Street in Homeland.
Also open for the day will be exhibits at the park including the Homeland Methodist Church. The church was built in 1887 and served the Homeland community for more than 90 years.
Visitors also may tour the Homeland School built in 1878. Originally named Bethel Academy, the school started with only five pupils and expanded in 1888 to accommodate 75 pupils. The school stayed open until 1956 when the building and grounds were donated to the county. It is on the National Register of Historical Buildings.
The 1900 Raulerson House will give festival-goers the opportunity to see how an affluent farm family lived in the first years of the 20th Century. The house had no running water or indoor plumbing. The home was originally located at the intersection of County Line Road and Interstate 4 west of Lakeland, and relocated to Homeland to augment Heritage Park.
Illustrating how the less fortunate settlers of Polk County lived is the cabin that once belonged to the English family. It is defined as a single-pen log cabin built of cypress logs and was constructed in 1888. It features a shady wrap-around porch which gave residents respite from Florida’s heat and shaded the interior of the house.
The pole barn was the focal point of early Florida homesteading. It was usually a rude affair, boasting only a few support logs and a roof of palm fronds or cedar shakes. The barn was the center of a settler’s work day, housing tools, farm implements and provided shade and protection for farm animals. Cribs on each side were used to store grains, peas, corn and seeds, says Gornoski.
Heritage Park illustrates the basics available to Polk settlers and the core of communities that later developed like Bartow and Lakeland.
The Festival celebrates those days, those Good Ol’ Days.