Citrus Industry Members Invited to Thanksgiving Event

Josh McGillEvents, History

The Florida Remembered Society Inc. is hosting a Florida’s First Thanksgiving event Nov. 15 to showcase plans for the creation of the Headwaters Heritage & Cultural Center in Fellsmere. The event will recreate the first Thanksgiving and be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Vero Heritage Center on 14th Avenue in Vero Beach.

first Thanksgiving
The Florida Remembered Society board of directors includes some citrus industry members. Left to right are Brenda Eubanks Burnette, George Hamner, Fernando Herrera, Greg Nelson and Anne Sinnott.

The Headwaters Heritage & Cultural Center will provide educational programs that cultivate an understanding and appreciation of Florida’s history and multicultural heritage to nurture the stewardship of the natural environment.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the nation’s real first Thanksgiving took place near the Matanzas River in St. Augustine, Florida. It occurred when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 soldiers, sailors and settlers joined local Native Americans in a feast that followed a Mass of Thanksgiving. That’s according to Kathleen Deagan, research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, located at the University of Florida.

“The holiday we celebrate today is really something that was invented in a sense,” says Deagan. “By the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the people who settled America’s first colony with Menéndez probably had children and grandchildren living there.”

Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History, says the first Thanksgiving meal probably took place near the mouth of present-day Hospital Creek on the Matanzas River. Today, the Mission of Nombre de Dios and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park are at that location. The feast followed a Thanksgiving Mass, which Deagan says was a common practice of sailors after a tumultuous expedition.

The 68 days that it took Menéndez and his followers to get to Florida’s shore had not been easy. “A Mass and feast of Thanksgiving was the first thing Menendez did, and he invited all of the local native people who were so curious about them,” Deagan says.

first Thanksgiving
A rendering shows what the Headwaters Heritage & Cultural Center will look like.

Get more information about Florida Remembered Society here. Additional details about the Nov. 15 event is available from Brenda Eubanks Burnette at or (561) 351-4314.

Source: Florida Remembered Society

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