This is my favorite remnant, of the recent four day festival, here on the island. I worked it up on Pixelmatr in between walks downtown. This pirate, Slappy, is a colorful character and part of the band, that roam the streets here, every first week-end in May.
Amelia Island is at the most northern point, of the Florida coastline. Across the St. Mary’s River lies Georgia. The river provided a perfect haven for the looting, drinking, scavengers of the ocean. It’s deep water provided access and security. It was a perfect hideout; and overlooked, by most. Only adventurers, found their feet, on the hidden trails and underbrush of Fernandina Beach.
Black Beard, Jean Lafitte, Captain Kidd and Louis Aury were famous pirates who swashbuckled their way to our shores.
Our port gave birth to the shrimping industry, here in the United States. Greek families, who immigrated, in 1912, brought their fishing trade, and boat building experience, with them. The names Deonas and Tiliokas are still respected, in the business, and here in our community. They were the founding fathers, bar none, in the US. It all began, by them, right here, on this island.
Except for make believe, the pirates are gone. And the shrimp boats are almost non existent. Each year, there are more crowds, cars and clowns. As a child, I stood on the dock; those old heavy boards, hot and smelling of creosote; leaning over the railing and waiting for the Shrimp Boats to come into view. It was a serious race, of slow moving fishing vessels, adorned with flags and colorful banners.
A local merchant, artist and shrimp boat owner, Robert Lannon, proprietor of the Ship’s Lantern, had the idea of lining the main street of town, with art. Today there are booths, creating mini-galleries of paintings, sculptures and ceramics. But in the beginning, the local artists were in the sun, propping their art up here and there. With every new year, it is more elaborate. However, at one time, the festival was just that. A party atmosphere, in which there was a lot of music, drinking and dancing in the streets. The pavement was covered with tossed, purple and white milk like containers, that were sold out of the Palace ( the oldest bar in Florida). You would pass through the swinging doors, of the main entrance, and hold up your money filled fist. Along the way your tender would be exchanged for a beer (worthy of any self respecting pirate); you would be squeezed by the crowd and pushed to the exit, like toothpaste out of the tube. I can only remember good times from those days.
Now, there is 100,000 people present, each day of the Festival. There is no drinking; in the streets, anyway. And there is a visible police force. Everyone calls themselves having fun. But comparably, I think they only say that, because they don’t know what fun is.
A real pirate would be appalled.
Before the pirates, as far back as we have proof (roughly 1000 A.D.) the island was inhabited by the Timicuan Indians. I often think of them, in their camp, perched on the hill, in what is now Old Town. It overlooks a paper mill these days.
The incredible historical work of Theodore Morris.
Friday night, I sat on the curb, on 3rd St, to watch the fireworks. Just myself and my husband. We were enjoying it, because the buildings blocked out the smoke, of yet another paper mill, that lies just south of the town. We were joined by an inebriated woman from Nebraska. She has plans of moving here.
If you cross the bridge at night, coming onto the island, look to the left and you will see the obnoxious, envitonmentally hazardous, outdated factory, that now looks like a small city. I don’t know how folks can enjoy the colors in the air, contrasting against a backdrop of heavy smoking toxins, billowing into the sky. Currently, some of the old timers, and all of the newcomers are in an uproar over the heavy development here. They are destroying wild life and wetlands, to build housing.
Everyone wants to be here.
On this magical island.
What once was a drunkards dream, is now a modern, fake paradise, complete with bad odors in the air and chocolate brown ocean water.
I raise my tea and toast, to all who love the island.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
And now I put on my blinders and hit the streets of wonder, hoping to not get tasered today.
This is My Island and My Playground.
Time is for joy, and reality, it’s a matter of perspective.