121st Annual Eustis Georgefest

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Posted 2023-02-23 by Gail Clifford MDfollow

Sat 18 Feb 2023 - Sat 25 Feb 2023

Georgefest! aka Washington Days in Eustis, Florida celebrates George Washington's Birthday. The first President of the United States of America, George Washington lived from February 22, 1732, to December 14, 1799. In 1879, Washington's Birthday became an official federal holiday. Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (Feb 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865), his birthday was also celebrated and by 1890, was a paid holiday in 10 states. Retailers began marketing sales as "President's Weekend" and the two birthdays "rolled into" President's Day, celebrated the third Monday of February.

In Lake County, Florida, it's cause for celebration. This year, Eustis, Florida, celebrates their 121st annual Georgefest celebration. Begun on February 22, 1902 at the Ocklawaha Hotel (built in 1876) to celebrate winter visitors, historic events from Florida's past were celebrated. Since it was also the first president's birthday, the original event was called, "George Washington's Birthday Celebration."

Shortened to the catchy "Georgefest!" modern day events include a bass fishing tournament, an ice cream social in Ferran Park (250 Ferran Park Drive, Eustis), mulitiple music events spanning rock, jazz, country, and gospel, bike parades, carnival, vendor booths, food midway, and fireworks.

Eustis, located in Lake County, Florida, now contains the longest ongoing festival to honor George Washington's Birthday in the United States. Because they were able to continue in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eustis passed Laredo, Texas (event cancelled due to the pandemic in 2021) as the longest-running celebration.

Part of the Orlando Metropolitan Statistical Area, Eustis is about 45 minutes northwest of Orlando. In the 2020 census, its population was noted at 23,189 people.

Lake Eustis covers 7,000 acres which is approximately 5 miles long and 4 miles wide. Part of the Harris Chain of Lakes, Lake Eustis may be the perfect place for bass fishing. As anyone who has visited Florida likely knows, the presence of alligators makes Lake Eustis, west of Ferran Park, or any freshwater lake, dangerous for swimming but the presence of bass makes it an excellent place for other outdoor activities and competitions.

For spectators, check out the two manatees spotted at Trout Lake, a 103 acre lake within Eustis.

Named for a hero of the first and second Seminole Wars (1816-1842) and the American Civil War (1861 – 1865), General Abraham Eustis, an attorney and United States Army officer who rose to the rank of Brigadier General, transferred from Florida to Virginia as the first commander of Fort Monroe.

Abraham's ancestors, William and Sarah (Jackson) Eustice in a little village along the Thames, travelled from England to Massachusetts around 1657. Their ten children, descendants later adopting the surname spelling change, were found under EWE-STES in parish records as spelling was more malleable at the time. Through the thorough investigation of a current descendant family member, it was found that Eustice's father was a Joseph Eustace whose name traced back to William the Conquerer (c. 1028 - 1087) and Count Eustace of Bologne. William and Sarah's son Abraham, born 1757, married Margaret Parker in 1784, and sired the future General Abraham, born 1786 in Petersburg, Virginia. Sadly the elder Abraham died in 1788 and Margaret returned to Boston to raise young Abraham. Here, he received a degree from Harvard and practised law under the supervision of his uncle, the Honorable Isaac Parker, ultimately the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

General Abraham Eustis first came to Florida in 1821 after the Spanish ceded the Florida territory to the United States in 1819 in return for settling a disputed area in Spanish Texas. In an oversimplification, the Seminole Wars were fought between the Seminoles, originally Africans who had escaped slavery and crossed into Spanish colonial territories, thereby gaining their freedom, later native Americans displaced from Georgia and North and South Carolina, against the United States for Britain in the War of 1812, causing significant animosity which contributed to Andrew Jackson's order that all Indian tribes be removed to Indian reservations west of the Mississippi River. It was his work as a surveyor and mapmaker that allowed for military roads to be established from Fort Augustine to Tampa.

!date 18/02/2023 -- 25/02/2023
93931 - 2023-06-12 01:05:55


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