Okeechobee County plans centennial celebration

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the county’s founding in 2017. In honor of this milestone, special events and activities are planned throughout the year, including a street dance, historic bus tours, a barn dance, a guest speaker series, and the “Amazing Okeechobee” contest.

Kick Off ‘frolic’

Those who enjoyed the City of Okeechobee Centennial in 2015, will find some of the events similar to those planned for the city, along with some new events to enjoy.

The county centennial will start with a Kick Off Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in front of the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse, 304 N.W. Second St., from 6 to 10 p.m. The committee in charge of planning this event includes Sharie Turgeon, Katrina Elsken, Magi Cable, Sharon Cannon and Kay McCool.

The Kick Off party will include a street dance to music by DP Productions, food vendors, children’s games, a photo booth and a lip sync contest. Visitors can also enjoy the Smithsonian WaterWays exhibit and a Guy Harvey art display inside the courthouse. This exhibit is only being staged in six places in Florida and Okeechobee is proud to be one of them. The display is interactive and will give you a wonderful overview of water and its importance to the community.

The lip sync contest is limited to the first 12 acts to sign up. The esteemed judges for the contest are really judges. Providing their best judicial temperament will be Magistrate Deborah Hooker, County Judge Jerry Bryant and retired Circuit Court Judge William Hendry. To reserve your spot in the contest, contact Sharie Turgeon at sturgeon@co.okeechobee.fl.us.

The historical time line banners that tell the story of Okeechobee’s history will be on display. Eight new panels focus on the county. Also being unveiled that evening will be the County Centennial Tervis Tumbler and the Commemorative County Centennial, limited edition Henry Rifle that will be raffled off at the end of 2017 at the final Centennial Event.

Local nonprofit groups are invited to have food booths at the Kick Off party.

Each vendor must offer a different meal choice. The nonprofits will keep all proceeds from their booths. Spaces are limited. For information, contact Katrina Elsken at kelsken@newszap.com. Information booth spaces will also be available for local organizations.

Historic bus tour

The Okeechobee Historical Society with sponsorship from the Board of County Commissioners, will once again provide Bus Tours throughout the year. The dates of tours are Feb. 4, March 4, April 8, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, 2017. The tours will include a short walking tour of the Historic Courthouse, led by retired Judge William Hendry, whose grandfather built the courthouse and who presided over the main courtroom during his long judicial career. Following the tour, tour participants will board an air conditioned school bus to be transported around the historical areas with commentary by Magi Cable, President of the Okeechobee Historical Society. With each ticket sold there is a photo booklet to accompany the tour as well as a scheduled stop at the Historical Society museum building. This tour will be different from the city tour which was presented for the city’s 2015 centennial. Tickets are limited to 40 per tour and they sell out quickly! Tickets will be available at the Historical Society booth beginning with the Top of the Lake Christmas Festival or at the Chamber of Commerce during normal working hours.

Speaker series

Centennial celebration committee member Dowling Watford has pulled together a “Speaker Series” that will be a part of the Centennial official events. On Feb. 2, Judge Hendry will give a brief talk on the “History of Okeechobee.”

On April 6 a talk on WWI Centennial and Okeechobee’s Involvement will be given by Steve Carr. On June 7, the topic will “Agriculture History” and the speech given by Todd Clemons of the Okeechobee Livestock Market. On Sept. 7, a presentation on “Peter Raulerson, Founding Family of Okeechobee” will be presented by Magi Cable. The final speaker will be the most highly anticipated one in which Rick Smith, son of Patrick Smith, will be speaking on “A Land Remembered” the very popular novel that gives readers a great insight into how it was to live in this area in the very early days. All of the Speaker Series will be held in the Historic Courtroom on the second floor of the Courthouse beginning at 6 p.m.

Amazing Okeechobee

Another ongoing event will be “Amazing Okeechobee” which will be a team competition that will need to participate in “challenges” throughout the year in order to earn points towards victory. One of the challenges will be a “Jeopardy-like” game concerning the history of Okeechobee. The committee includes Jennifer Busbin and Mariah Anuez. More details on this intriguing event will be provided after the first of the year.

Birthday Bash

The birthday celebration is being planned by committee members Brittany Carner, Matt Dorriety, Kathy Scott, Dowling Watford and Ed Thornton. The date of the event is Saturday, May 6, 2017. This party will honor the anniversary of the day the county was signed into existence on May 8, 1917. (August 7, is when it was legally formed.) There will be a barbecue competition, children’s activities and a barn dance out at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center.

Centennial celebration

The final event will be a ticketed event at the Okeechobee KOA on Dec. 2, 2017. The committee charged with planning this event are Centennial Committee members Mariah Anuez, Corey Wheeler and Mary Beth Cooper along with County Administrator Robbie Chartier and her assistant, Tracy Rowland.


With the exception of the final ticketed event and the historic bus tours, all of the centennial celebration events will be free and open to the public. Sponsors are sought to fund the events.

Sponsorships for the County Centennial are available with three levels.

• Silver Sponsorships, a $500 donation, include mention in media releases, two tickets to the end of year event, one raffle ticket for the Commemorative Rifle and one Commemorative Tervis Tumbler.

• Gold Sponsorships, a $1,000 donation, doubles the number of tickets and tumblers and increase publicity.

• A Legacy Sponsorship, a $2,000 donation, provides a reserved table for 8 at the final event, 4 rifle raffle tickets and 4 Tervis tumblers with again more public recognition for your support of the Centennial Events.

As of November, Legacy sponsors are: Law Office of Cassels & McCall and the Okeechobee News; Gold sponsors are Larson Dairy, Inc., Everglades Pediatric Dentistry, Florida Community Health Centers,  Century 21 Hazellief and Prevatt and  Glades A/C. Silver sponsors are Domer’s Inc., Gilbert Family of Companies, Gretchen Robertson State Farm, Okeechobee Livestock Market, Inc., Heartland Discount Pharmacy and the Okeechobee Historical Society.

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