ENGLEWOOD — When Elsie Quirk Library staffer Pat Lewis wanted to promote the importance of local history in the community, she came up with Lemon Bay Fest.
That was 10 years ago. The festival since has evolved into a weeklong, jampacked schedule of events celebrating Englewood’s history.
Lewis thought of it as “heritage tourism.”
Residents and visitors are in for a treat as Englewood celebrates the 11th Annual Lemon Bay Fest — Englewood History With Zest.
The weeklong festival begins today and runs until Feb. 9, culminating with the Cracker Fair and Lemon Dessert Contest in Pioneer Park at 300 W. Dearborn St.
“There’s something for everybody,” said Jean Airey, committee member of the Lemon Bay Historical Society. “We hope for a very good turnout.”
Lemon Bay Fest was an outgrowth of Elsie Quirk Library’s Oral History Project. After securing proclamations with the Charlotte and Sarasota county commissions, the second week of February was declared “Englewood History Week.” Activities in the inaugural festival included historical educational materials from the library and trolley tours of historic sites. The following year, the celebration grew, and Lewis assembled a planning meeting to further promote Englewood.
“Pat wanted a broader base, bringing more tourists to the Englewood area and sharing Englewood’s history,” said Toni Hopper, chairwoman of the 2013 Lemon Bay Fest committee and reference librarian at Elsie Quirk. “She wanted to promote the importance of the local history in our community.”
Lewis retired in 2006 and Hopper took over. Lemon Bay Fest initially was held at libraries throughout Sarasota County and Englewood until 2008, when some of the events started to take place in Charlotte County, Hopper said.
“The Elsie Quirk Library and Lemon Bay Historical Society have always been a great partnership,” Hopper said. “The more we opened it to the community, the more they get involved.”
Lemon Bay Fest features an eclectic mix of olden-day crafting, educational, historical and environmental activities.
Newer activities include geocaching and pickleball. The Englewood Sports Complex is offering an intro to geocaching from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, and a pickleball workshop from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Mary Smith, executive director of the Englewood Chamber of Commerce, said she’s looking forward to the Cracker Fair and, more specifically, the dessert contest. For a small fee, fair-goers will be able to taste the desserts.
“I know many people look forward to it every year with the different recipes,” Smith said. “It’s not just food. I enjoy the music, especially the bluegrass.” The chamber plays a supportive role, providing some historical input and marketing, Smith said.
“There’s so many people who come from Sarasota and Charlotte counties working together,” she said. “It’s important for Englewood to get its history out there.”
For a complete schedule of events, go to www. lemonbayfest.com .