Lake City to host Founders Day bicentennial

After 200 years, Lake City looks a bit different than the lone log cabin on the edge of Lake Desoto that began the settlement.

This Saturday, the city and Columbia County will celebrate the bicentennial of the American settlement with a Founders Day event featuring fireworks, antique cars and a Settler’s Shin Dig.

Chris Esing, a professor of history at Austin Peay State University, headed the effort to celebrate the city’s bicentennial.

“We were hoping to plan a year-long event, but unfortunately because of COVID and the obstacles of COVID, we delayed it as long as we could,” Esing said.

A Lake City native, Esing said the event had been on his radar for a while. After reaching out to the city, planning got underway in March.

A historian on Lake City, Esing researched to find the first settler and the earliest date of arrival. He said records showed both Noel Raulerson and Henry Edwards living in the area as early as 1824.

“The big question was whether Henry Edwards or Noel Raulerson was first,”

Esing said that genealogies place Edwards in North Carolina up to when his son was born in 1823, showing Edwards had yet to move to Florida. Another court document states that Raulerson had a cabin on Lake Desoto in the fall of 1821, establishing him as the first settler and giving Lake City a rough founding date.

Esing said Raulerson was in the area earlier but nothing ties him down until 1821.

Through the decades, the settlement has seen lots of changes, including a name switch from Alligator to Lake City.

Saturday’s event will feature a history carnival with a different booth set up for each decade of the city’s 200 year history. The 1820s booth will have a settler’s farm, and Seminole War reenactors will depict the 1830s.

For the 1860s, the Blue-Grey Army will show how a medical tent from the era would have operated. The Lake City Women’s Club will run the 1900s booth, showing how the club has impacted the city since its start.

Florida Gateway College will bring out video games for the turn of the millennium until the present.

Esing said the booths will have activities for kids along with sweet treats that relate to the decade, like lemon drops for the 1820s and butterscotch for the 1830s.

The celebration will also have an antique car show, cake walk and food trucks. A craft show and vendor’s market with 110 booths will set up at Olustee Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Skip Johns will emcee and perform live music at the Darby Pavilion that includes Southern Rhythm Dance Academy, Gateway City Band, Fancy Dancers Studios and the Community Gospel Singers.

Esing encouraged visitors to participate by dressing up in any historical costume from the 1820s to present.

“It’s important that we celebrate these occasions and mark these occasions because we need to come together as communities and bring those communities together,” Esing said.

After fireworks over Lake Desoto at 6:45 p.m., a Founders Day Frolic, hosted by Tony Buzzella, will dance the night away from 7 to 9 p.m.

“The fact that we can see the community together and see people out having a good time, I think that’s most of what I’m looking forward to,” Esing said. “That and the fireworks”

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