I moved to Florida about 4 years ago and from my perspective things are changing faster than ever. More and more people are discovering there is more to this state than just Orlando, Miami and Key West. Florida sells the lifestyle of living where others vacation, it’s a great strategy because that’s why I’m here. But to be honest the world in general is changing, not just Florida. So let’s go back in time, when I’d like to think the world was a better place.
20 years ago you probably didn’t call the pound key on your phone a hash tag and didn’t even have texting in general. You could sit on the beach and hear the most popular song playing on someone’s beach radio or even just the waves. Life was peaceful. But technology isn’t the only thing that changes over time, and you can’t expect me to write a whole blog on Florida now and not talk about Disney World. But did you know Disney World isn’t the only big amusement park in Florida? Busch Gardens opened in 1959 in Tampa, owned by the beer- brewer Anheuser-Busch, now it’s owned by the same corporation as Sea World. Before it was sold, my family preferred to go there instead of Disney, because eventually Disney becomes repetitive and how many times can you ride the “it’s a small world” and tea cup rides? Busch gardens at that time had a brewery on location that gave you free freshly brewed Busch beers. When is anything ever free anymore? Even though I was too young to drink, it had exotic animals to see and rides for all ages.
Disney World opened in Florida on October 1, 1971. This was a huge deal for the east coast because now you didn’t have to fly across the country for that Disney experience. Since 1971 prices have gone from $3.50 to as much as $105.00 or more depending on your idea of a Disney vacation. We didn’t have a lot of options then on what to do as we do now. Epcot opened in 1982, MGM Studios opened in 1989, Animal Kingdom in 1998, not even including the changes and expansions to each park over the years. Disney was dead set on keeping the park family friendly, there was only alcohol served at the more adult park Epcot, but now every park has that option. They’ve also had a long standing partnership with Coca Cola for over 70 years. The park on paper has changed a lot but visually it’s changed dramatically.
Another fairly well known business of Florida, Publix Food Stores, and George Jenkins opened the very first one in Winter Haven on September 6, 1930. Publix is a private corporation that is wholly owned by present and past employees. It is currently ranked No. 81 on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work for 2015. Publix now operates throughout the Southeast, with locations in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Living in Florida definitely had its perk of never being without a Publix. If you live in an area with a Publix you know the deli subs are to die for, the associates are the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and you haven’t lived until you’ve gone down a wide aisle, got some awesome BOGOs and left with some crunchy fried chicken. Now owning 1,077 stores from Florida to North Carolina, Publix is gobbling up business in their locations. Jenkins, who opened the very first store, opened his dream store in 1940 which included “electric eye” doors which drew people in from miles around. The store featured in store music, fluorescent lights, a flower and donut shop and – wait for it – air conditioning. In 1951 with 24 stores, the company grossed 18 million. In the same year the first warehouse complex was built in Lakeland, Florida, so trucks can deliver fresh produce. What I love most about Publix is the Bakery, the first one opened in 1957, before that Publix had “Danish Bakeries” that were separate from the actual store.
Two men who changed Florida forever, Walt Disney and George Jenkins in 1947 If you’ve traveled around Florida more than once you’ve probably heard of Tampa, and if you’ve spent some time in Tampa, you’ve heard of the Gasparilla Pirate Parade and Festival. If you don’t know it’s an annual celebration held in the city of Tampa, Florida since 1904. Held each year in late January or early February and hosted by Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and the City of Tampa. It celebrates the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), a mythical Spanish pirate captain who supposedly operated in Southwest Florida. During the parade, members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and dozens of other krewes throw beads, coins, and other souvenir trinkets to the throngs along the parade route. In the past, members of YMKG would also fire .38 six-shooters loaded with blanks into the air and toss the empty shells into the crowd. This tradition was restricted in 1992 and ended entirely several years later. However, trained members of YMKG still fire loud mini-cannons mounted atop several parade floats. The main parade is broadcast every year on WFLA-TV, and has been since 1955; station WTVT-TV also covered the parade from 1955 to 1980. The average crowd at the main parade is over 300,000 people, with over 1,000,000 attending at least one Gasparilla event. According to several studies, the Parade of Pirates has a local economic impact of over $22 million, and the combined events bring in over $40 million. Beginning in 2015, Visit Tampa Bay, the local tourist bureau, began a multimillion-dollar promotional campaign in the northern United States, Canada, and Europe to attract more visitors to Tampa during its “Gasparilla Season”.
One last biggie, on the list of places that has made Florida what it is today is Duval Street in Key West. For those of you who don’t know, Duval Street is a famous downtown commercial zoned street in Key West, Florida, running north and south from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. From shore to shore, the street is just over 1.25 miles in length. It is named for William Pope Duval, the first territorial governor of Florida. Duval Street represents the cultural influence of Key West’s proximity and cultural ties to Cuba. Many Cubans immigrated to the area beginning in the late 1860s. At one time, there were so many cigar stores on Duval, it was given to the city the moniker “Cigar City USA.” Near the northern end of the street is Mallory Square. It’s the center of Key West’s waterfront. On certain nights, the gulf shores of Duval Street often vibrate with a carnival like atmosphere that lasts until dawn and beyond. In fact, the ritual has a name known to tourists and residents as the “Duval Pub Crawl.”
Florida has changed, whether we’d like to believe it or not, technology, climate and tourist attractions have changed the state and has grown our population. Between locals, snowbirds and tourists Florida is getting a lot of attention. This is bringing in more state revenue which creates more jobs and helps the economy as a whole. One day we’ll all be able to tell our kids or grandkids about the time in life when we had “selfie sticks”, which were just sticks we put our phones on and it was banned from all theme parks for safety hazards. Or that we used just about every type of social media to share that cute picture of your pets. And hopefully one day you won’t have to tell your kids you sold Tea-tox on Instagram to afford your “lifestyle”. And if you don’t know what Tea-tox is, you don’t want to know.
– Morghan Sanders, IAS Intern