Same time, next year

Certain activities are replicable. You could set your clock, or maybe your calendar, by them. For many years, just as spring is making its way after winter, I’ve trekked up to the state capital for the one face-to-face Florida Folklife Council meeting and the annual Folk Heritage Awards. In the past, I usually traveled with a fellow council member from Miami. He’s stepped away and now I make the trip on my own.

Flight schedules being what they, last year and this I’ve had time to explore north Florida, while keeping close to Talleehassee. Last year, one day, I drove to neighboring Quincy; the next day I ventured south into the Apalachicola National Forest to Sopchoppy (see 4-13-22 post).

Recently, on my annual weekend up north, I picked up my trusty rental car and pointed it west to Havana (some pronounce it Hay-vana). Curiosity took me in that direction. It’s less than a half hour drive through the beautiful, towering pines of the region.

Havana was founded in 1906, named after Havana, Cuba, which was known for its high-quality tobacco growing and as a cigar making center. The economy of Havana, Florida and much of Gadsen County was built around the cultivation of shade tobacco. By the 1960s, however, the shade tobacco markets had moved to Central America and elsewhere.

The railroad came to town in 1902 making the farming and shipping of tobacco more profitable. It was part of the Old Spanish Trail, originally a route between St. Augustine on the Atlantic to New Orleans on the Gulf coast. Eventually, the Old Spanish Trail continued all the way to San Diego on the Pacific.

Havana’s storefronts ringing the crossroads are now filled with friendly antique stores.

A little way off is the Shade Tobacco Museum housed in the over 100 year old Tobacco or Planters Exchange building, a National Historic Landmark. It drew me like a magnet. The museum’s exhibits focus on the town’s shade tobacco history.

another quilt mural on the right
tobacco exhibit

Havana is part of the Florida Main Street program. Several efforts have been taken to revitalize the town. A number of murals in the downtown area that depict the town’s history and projects of the future are part of this initiative.

Also among the murals are six quilt murals.

Another arts initiative is the fire hydrants painted by local artists. Joy Green’s playful frog caught my eye, as did the murals that distributed the frogs around town.

Joy Green’s fire hydrant

You cannot forget you’re in the south when you see the blooming magnolia trees next to the tin-roofed house – so beautiful

And next year, if there is a next year? Maybe I’ll venture east to Monticello.


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