GeorgeFest is the longest running festival celebrating George Washington’s birthday in the state of Florida and the second longest running festival in the country second only to Laredo, TX. 2018 marks the 116th consecutive annual celebration in Eustis. No other city in Florida has as long-standing a tradition of a patriotic celebration in honor of America’s founding Father.
It all began rather inconspicuously: It centered around the Ocklawaha House, the oldest hotel in the area, on which construction began in 1876. When the hotel built by A.S. Pendry, a major attraction to tourists, was enlarged between 1902 and 1907, something other than the additional east wing was added. Residents decided to show their appreciation for their visitors by hosting a holiday on Feb 22, 1902 (some dressed as early pioneers, while others as local native tribesman, to produce a pageant of the state’s early history).
While the format for the annual celebration, held on the day of George Washington’s birthday in 1732, changed constantly, several things remained the same. First, the festival always attracted a crowd, and not just from those staying at the hotel. People from neighboring villages and towns would make the trip into town for the festivities. From a simple parade of bicycles and Model T’s, decorated with red, white and blue bunting, and a few other units on unpaved roads, the festival has grown in size and scope.
Over the years, GeorgeFest has gone from a one-day event to one that has spanned several weeks, in the recent past. Attendance has grown from the original handful of locals to thousands of eager and patriotic fun seekers. The main theme has never changed over the 116 years since its inception- simply to have fun.
For schedule of events and more information visit www.eustisgeorgefest.org