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Catch the pioneering spirit

Learn about Ozello's history and enjoy an arts and crafts show in one Saturday event.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


An arts and crafts show, along with a Pioneers Day exhibit and other activities should provide an interesting day trip to Ozello on Saturday.

The annual Ozello Keys Pioneers Day celebration takes place at Ozello Civic Center, 14095 W Ozello Trail from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The site is about 6 miles west of U.S. 19 on Ozello Trail. Pioneers Day includes antiques, collectibles, arts, crafts, plants and a yard sale.

The works of about 50 arts and crafts vendors will be available for sale, including traditional arts and crafts as well as antiques and plants..

The Ozello Civic Club sponsors Pioneers Day. Inside the civic center, a historical display will depict Ozello's history. Civic club member Thelma Henderson will staff the historic display table and explain the artifacts in the club's scrapbook. Among the artifacts is the only known photograph that shows the old one-room schoolhouse that served the community until 1943. The photo has been badly stained by water.

Henderson rescued it from the 1993 flood and washed away the mud.

Ozello Pioneers Day started as a way to honor its founding families: the pioneers of this community and their descendants, people who for generations made their living by netting and fishing from the estuaries, creeks, rivers and gulf waters.

These were people who built a schoolhouse dubbed "The Isle of Knowledge" and relied on a wooden rowboat instead of a school bus to ferry pupils to class.

Ozello lost much of its tradition and history at the hands of the no-name storm of 1993 and the net fishing ban later on, but the pioneer spirit remains. The festival retains this spirit and combines it with a late-season arts and crafts show.

Pioneers Day chairwoman Sara Benson said this year's event will feature a special art display.

"Local painter Phyllis Milton, who passed away last year, gave us a collection of her paintings, which will be on sale."

Coffee and sweet rolls will be available in the morning, followed by burgers and hot dogs in the afternoon.

The tiny community enjoys a laid-back atmosphere complemented by the natural beauty of the gulf coast. To complete the Ozello experience, visitors should stay for the sunset. The causeway at the end of Ozello Trail provides a magnificent view.

Fishing from the causeway is allowed, and catches of trout and redfish are common. Another great fishing spot is the pier at the end of John Brown Road.

The community also boasts such fine seafood restaurants as Peck's Old Port Cove, Yankee Skipper and Wench's Brew.

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