In a year in which taxes are rising, few people will happily observe the 100th anniversary of income tax. Luckily, however, many other meaningful anniversaries are coming this year, most with celebratory events worth visiting.
It was 500 years ago that Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. Opera giants Richard Wagner and Guiseppe Verdi both were born 200 years ago. The most significant battle of the Civil War, at Gettysburg, Pa., was fought 150 years ago, in 1863.
That’s the same year that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves and gave the Gettysburg Address. And it was 50 years ago, in 1963, that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
A selection of anniversary events is described below.
FLORIDA AT 500
On April 2, 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon sighted land he thought was another island in the New World and named it “La Florida.” Where he landed is a matter of dispute, but on April 2 of this year a permanent historical marker highlighted by a 15-foot-high statue of Ponce de Leon will be installed midway between St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach on a site indicated by a navigational notation in Ponce de Leon’s ship log.
The next day, costumed reenactors in downtown St. Augustine will replicate the April 3 landing of Ponce de Leon, along with other activities, including a celebratory mass conducted by Puerto Rico’s bishop at the city’s Cathedral Basilica.
St. Augustine officials are hopeful the King and Queen of Spain will come to Florida for the anniversary, but that visit has not yet been confirmed. Commemorations are also scheduled in a number of other Florida locales.
Preceding the anniversary events, a major new attraction, the Colonial Quarter, will have a grand opening March 16. Created by the University of Florida and former Philadelphia 76ers owner Pat Croce, who also owns the Pirate and Treasure Museum here, the two-acre living history museum will span centuries of history in St. Augustine. Features include blacksmith and gunsmith demonstrations, a Spanish Garrison Town and taverna, a British colony and Publick House (pub), and a climbable 17th century replica watchtower. Admission will be $10.99 adults, $5.99 children 5-12.
• Information: www.floridashistoriccoast.com, www.vivaflorida.org, www.fla500.com.
More casualties — 51,112 — were incurred in this battle, fought 150 years ago on July 1-3, than in any other Civil War battle, and many consider it to be the turning point in the war. A series of events marking the anniversary will be held in Gettysburg, Pa., June 28 through July 7, including tributes, battle reenactments and encampments as well as tours and ranger programs.
“The reenactments will be a lot bigger than the annual ones we have. There will be perhaps 25,000 soldiers, plus women and children,” said Carl Whitehill of the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We expect 100,000 [visitors] July 4-7,” when the reenactments will be staged at sites outside the actual battle site. GettYsburg National Military Park, which preserves the battle site, will mark the anniversary with a ceremony June 30 and three days of special programs, tours and activities July 1-3. At this time, too, the new Seminary Ridge Museum, highlighting the first day’s battle, will have its grand opening.