The Gulf Beaches Historical Museum’s annual Island Festival on Saturday, March 3, will be a double event celebrating the festival’s 15th year combined with the museum’s 25th anniversary.
The museum is a special treasure located in the Pass-a-Grille area of St. Pete Beach and its mission is “to collect, preserve and exhibit island history,” which is accomplished by a dedicated group of volunteers.
The building was built in 1917 to serve as the Pass-a-Grille Beach Community Church whose congregation had held its meeting in an old school house and hotel lobbies. In 1959 the congregation moved to their new church on Pass-a-Grille Way, and former D.C. preservationist Joan Haley bought the property, saving it from demolition. She made the old church into her home. She died in 1989 and left the property to Pinellas County. She stipulated in her will it had to be used as a museum of history; it opened to the public in March, 1993.
As the community became comfortable with the museum, its collection grew to include more than 1,000 old postcards, thousands of photo- graphs from as far back as 1890; memorabilia from Sunshine School, Gulf Beaches School and island churches; a time-line from 1800-present, a WWII display; a Don CeSar exhibit, and more. A 55 inch TV tells a photographic story of the development of the beaches, a gift shop has books by local authors and a special exhibit changes yearly. It is one of most visited of the small museums in the area, with 4,500 plus people per year.
Many projects and events, like Island Festival, are held by the Friends of the Museum, a non- profit organization that manages the museum. Pinellas County takes care of major upkeep, but the friends handle the balance.
The Island Festival was first held in 2000 and included the Suntan Art Center, the St. Pete Beach Library and the former Island Community Theater to help make the community aware of these volunteer organizations. Today the museum carries on the event.
This year’s festival will feature vendors, support from the City of St. Pete Beach including the fire department with their food booth, the business community, and the MG Car Club along with entertainment, a fund raising raffle, and an author’s row with local writers signing books. The festival is free and runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The museum is also free and open four days a week in the winter and three in summertime. The Friends of the Museum are always in need of volunteers to help staff the museum or work behind the scenes. Information and how to become a vol- unteer is available at the museum, 115 10th Ave. or www.gulfbeachesmuseum.com.
Happy 25th Anniversary Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. It’s festival time.