Homestead - South Dade

Homestead begins 100th anniversary celebration

Nobody can say Homestead doesn’t know how to party.

Homestead kicked off its Centennial celebration by bringing in founding Homestead families and historical reenactors this weekend with a public street party in the Historic Downtown District on Saturday night. The street party was the start of a six-month celebration that will culminate with the Homestead Centennial Celebration on Feb. 2, 2013.

“I’m just glad they’re recognizing the past,” said Leonard Mowry. Mowry Street in Homestead is named after his great-great grandfather, Leonard Stewart Mowry, who was a pioneer in the town in the early 1900s. Mowry still lives nearby in Redland with his family.

Reenactors portrayed both well-known historical figures such as William Krome. (Think Krome Avenue).

“I’m having a great time,” reenactor Christina Admiral said. “Sharing with children who had no idea that this was going on in their backyards, it gives them something to be excited about.”

Admiral, 35, is a Biscayne National Park ranger. She portrayed a woman whose husband was an obsessed snail collector. Dressed in an old-time blue pinstripe dress and carrying colorful lygus snail shells in a wicker basket, she told the story of her sweetheart whose obsession consumed him. He and his friends had “a very unbecoming rite of polishing them against their noses,” Admiral said.

While Admiral’s character was an unknown woman, some of the more prominent figures stood out.

Bonnie King-Moran, 62, was dressed as Lily Lawrence Bow, the town’s librarian and first woman police officer. Bow was given work by Krome after her husband left her. Bow’s real great grandson, Richard Bow, came down from Bakersville, N.C., “ to represent the family.”

Bow said he was honored to have King-Moran portraying his grandmother, whom he fondly remembers.

“I remember her in a big old house in Miami,” Bow said. “I was so young it was hard for me to discern anything other than the fact she was so kind and loving to me.”

For many of the descendents of pioneer families, the weekend was about remembering Homestead’s history.

“I think its a chance to reflect on what hardships the founding members went through to create the town,” Frank Gentner, 68, said. Gentner, whose grandmother came down to Miami on the first train, came from Ohio for the event. Gentner said the weekend was like a reunion for him and the others.

“I’ve run into family names that I knew from my parents and grandparents and they look very similar,” Gentner said. “It’s amazing.”

Yvonne Knowles, who is chair of the centennial committee, believes coming together was the highlight for many old families.

“That’s the big draw,” Knowles said. “There’s a tremendous sense of community.”

The family members wanted to celebrate the groundwork that their grandparent and great-grandparents laid out to found Homestead.

“It was in a spirit that’s hard to find nowadays,” Mowry said. “I admire the spirit.”

Homestead, Miami-Dade’s second-oldest city, will continue to hold events leading up to its centennial next February.