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42nd Annual Olustee Festival - A Civil War remembrance

Officials gathered as the Blue-Grey Army’s Major General Dr. Tony Buzzella and Brigadier General Jeanie Wilks began the opening ceremonies at their new venue in Wilson Park with beautiful Lake DeSoto as the backdrop. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

By Tami Stevenson

Lake City’s 42nd Annual Olustee Festival, in conjunction with the 44th Annual Olustee Battle Reenactment in Olustee, took place last weekend. The Lake City festival had a new venue this year. Instead of closing historical down-town Marion Street and lining it with booths alongside the storefronts, event officials decided to move the festival to Wilson Park on Lake SeSoto.

Many braved the rain during the 9 a.m. memorial service at Oaklawn Cemetery, with Dr. Tony Buzzella presiding. The memorial service is conducted each year remembering the American Civil War was fought gallantly by men from both the Blue and Grey Armies for causes they deeply believed in, many making the ultimate sacrifice. State Representative Chuck Brannan was selected as the main speaker this year. President of the Olustee Chapter 2488 Annette Lindsey and Ex-Division President Ann Brown placed the wreath at the monument and

CORRECTION: (it was incorrectly stated here that CHS JROTC Honor Guard posted the colors) but it was Liberty Division of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps from Lake City, FL posted colors at both Oaklawn Cemetery and Wilson Park (Our apologies). Michael Ziegler is the instructor for the Sea Cadets.

Elected officials along with city, county and state officials gathered on the main stage at noon on Friday with other Olustee Battle dignitaries in Wilson Park for the opening ceremonies. The Blue-Grey Army’s Major General Dr. Tony Buzzella and Brigadier General Jeanie Wilks emceed the opening ceremonies with beautiful Lake DeSoto as the backdrop. Along with the other dignitaries and officials, they were joined on stage by Elaine Owens and 2020 Miss Olustee Anna-Eya Hardman, and Ashley Aust who sang the National Anthem. Commanding General of the Blue-Grey Army Judge Tom Coleman introduced several elected officials on the stage.

Elaine Owens, one of the originators of the Miss Olustee Pageant, handing the microphone to 2020 Miss Olustee Anna-Eya Hardman. - SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

General Ulysses S. Grant, played by Dr. Curt Fields, said, “It’s a pleasure to talk to you a bit about the Battle of Olustee which was a miserable federal defeat. Not happy about that. But it allows me to tell you that when you study our wonderful history always remember when you’re reading about the war, that there were two sides that fought in that war, both of them for country, patriotism and principle for what they believed in.” He continued, “… Know your history and know where you’ve been so that you may know where you may go and go there best. Know your history from Lake City right on up through America.”

State Representative Chuck Brannan speak a few words. “I won’t say very much. I found out a long time ago, the shorter you speak, the louder they clap.” He thanked everyone for their participation and listening to him speak in the pouring rain at the cemetery earlier that day. He hopes this festival lasts many years “after we are all gone”. - SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

With the threat of rain still looming, Friday, in the chilly weather, crowds were thinner than past years for the early hours of the event but picked up later in the day and Saturday people came out by the thousands. There were 125 arts and craft vendors at the park for that one of a kind treasure, and 21 food vendors to satisfy any appetite.

Performances and demonstrations were also held at the Lake City-Columbia County Historical Museum by the Fort White Thespian Guild. At 5 p.m. the skirmish reenactment between the Monitor and the Merrimack on the Shore of Lake DeSoto was a crowd pleaser.

Ashley Aust Sang the National Anthem.
-SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Saturday they held the Olustee Festival Parade and festivities at Wilson Park continued through 6 p.m.

Sunday, the Olustee Battle Re-Enactment took place at the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, about 15 miles east of Lake City in Baker County, with nearly 1,500 re-enactors and campers participating in period dress. The weekend long, living history event, with Civil War era encampments and demonstrations about how they lived, fought and died, draws more than 25,000 people from all over the world. Television crews and other news media come from neighboring states to witness the re-enactment of Florida’s largest Civil War Battle. Scenes for Civil War movies, including the 1989 movie Glory have been filmed during the reenactments.

This is the 156th anniversary of the original Battle of Olustee that took place February 20, 1864.

The live entertainment began with Pinemount Elementary School Chorus under the direction of Rebecca Striebel. - SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Georgia Pollard, of Lake City, enjoyed riding a horse at the event.
- SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

Olustee visitors -SVT Photos by Tami Stevenson