Gary Mormino, Ph.D. Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
Lucy Jones Adjunct Instructor, Arts and Humanities
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
At the mention of Florida, sunny beaches, lurking gators, and fresh-squeezed orange juice spring to mind. Yes, there is plenty of all that now, but how did Florida become Florida? Tampa played a large role in spreading the word about the Sunshine State and successfully lured countless tourists from all over the globe. World-wide wonder was evoked and curiosity shipped guests by the train load to a little fishing village entirely unknown a few years prior. What then attracted tourists? It was by no means the natural assets found on Florida’s gulf, but rather a response to the herculean efforts of a man who decided to throw a ball. Not just any ball – but the ball of a lifetime. Tampa Bay Hotel’s opening was elaborately marked with an unforgettable grand ball. Such splendor was previously unheard of in the laid back, subtropical town of Tampa, but under the guidance of Henry B. Plant the unimaginable came to life: voracious mosquitoes made way for world-renowned personalities, candles were extinguished by the luminous glow of electric light, and orange juice was eclipsed by fine vintage and sparkling champagne. A brief glimpse at Tampa’s past will reveal how a little fishing village of seven hundred carved its name on the map, and what it was that lured acclaimed celebrities and the best families from around the world to journey toward the muggy climates of Tampa Bay. With the help of a few fictionalized characters, we will go back to the end of the nineteenth century, or in the words of Charlotte Bronte, “late years – present years are dusty, sun-burnt, hot, arid; we will evade the noon, forget it in siesta, pass the mid-day in slumber, and dream of dawn.”
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