The popular GeorgeFest celebration is sure to get your patriotic juices flowing.
story: James Combs / photos: Christie Bobbitt
George Washington is an iconic figure in American history. He served as first president of the United States and was also an amazing general who helped the original 13 colonies achieve independence from Britain.
Because of his legacy, towns and cities throughout the country hold annual celebrations to honor his birthday. Can you guess what American city annually hosts one of the oldest Washington celebrations? Here’s a hint: It’s not his hometown of Alexandria, Va.
For 112 years, the City of Eustis has displayed patriotic spirit with its popular GeorgeFest celebration, which today attracts thousands of visitors from throughout the world. That ranks second — by a meager four years — to Laredo, Texas, which began celebrating the first president’s birthday in 1898. GeorgeFest is also the longest-running festival of any kind in Florida.
Throughout the years, the format of the event has changed from a one-day to a multi-day celebration. However, the goal has always remained the same: allow fun seekers to enjoy themselves and revel in patriotic pride. That goal continues being met, as evidenced by the 23,000 spectators who attended last year’s event.
“We had visitors who came from as far away as Canada and even Portugal,” says Christie Bobbitt, executive director of the Lake Eustis Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a weekend full of family fun, and children and adults alike will have a good time because there are so many things to do. Also, businesses in downtown Eustis will be open, so it is a great opportunity for local residents to visit the unique stores and see what they offer.”
The theme of this year’s event, which is being held Feb. 28 to March 2, is “It’s a Grand Old Flag.” The festival kicks off on Friday at 7p.m. with a concert by Turnstiles, a Billy Joel tribute band, in Ferran Park. The night skies will light up immediately following the concert with a dazzling fireworks display over Lake Eustis
As always, one of the festival highlights is the popular parade that begins Saturday morning at 9a.m. Spectators will line the sidewalks of Bay Street to watch colorful floats, baton-twirling cheerleaders, marching high school bands, and representatives from local businesses and civic organizations. The parade also features the dog jog, where pet owners and their furry friends jog and walk together on the one-mile parade route.
The three-day event will also include a carnival, food and craft vendors, pie-baking contests, a patriotic storefront contest, and a classic car cruise-in. In addition, musicians will continuously perform live music representing popular songs from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
“Some people come for the music, some for the fireworks, and others for the carnival,” Bobbitt says. “The best thing is you can enjoy all these fun activities for free. This is a very community-oriented event, and we are thankful for the city and other partners that make this happen.”
Do yourself a favor and partake in Florida’s longest-running festival. After all, by George, it’s Washington’s birthday!
For more information, call the Lake Eustis Area Chamber of Commerce at 352.357.3434.