Viva Florida 500, history and horticulture

Special to The Log

Viva, Florida! It has been 500 years since the arrival of Juan Ponce de León to the land he named La Florida in 1513.

A day of fun and festivities has been planned from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, 115 Westview Ave., and Perrine Park in Valparaiso.

Start the day with a visit to Valparaiso Garden Club’s plant sale. Hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials will be available at just the right time for fall planting. Then get a head start on Christmas shopping, choosing from the wide array of arts, crafts, vintage items, accessories and flea market finds. 

Visit the Okaloosa County Master Gardener’s exhibit for handouts and information about gardening in this area and learn how to handle problems encountered in your landscape. Check out the Eglin Aero-Modellers and see their model aircraft. Visit other informative exhibits inside the museum.

Visit the garden club’s information tables and check out scholarships available to students entering college, as well as for kid’s nature camp (Camp Wekiva) and a high school environmental conference (S.E.E.K.). Scholarships are available through the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and from Valparaiso Garden Club. Find out how to apply for these scholarships, and learn more about opportunities for all ages available through the garden club.

Members of the garden club will lead a gardening/nature activity for children ages three through seven at 10 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., gather in the blue room of the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida for Sheila Dunning’s lecture, “Gardening in the Sand.” Dunning is Okaloosa County’s Commercial Horticulture agent, and her presentation is a must for people who want to learn more about gardening in our area.

At noon, the garden club and representatives from the City of Valparaiso and the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida will have a groundbreaking of a community garden behind the museum. Take this opportunity to tour the museum, which has generously consented to open its doors to the public free of charge for this event.

Bring the kids of all ages to the blue room of the museum at 1 p.m. for story time with Emily Ruff, Valparaiso Community Library’s Children’s Librarian. At 2 p.m. a floral design activity will be held for children ages 8-12. The activity is free, but it is limited to 20 participants. To secure a space, email

Viva Florida 500 is a statewide initiative led by the Florida Department of State, under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott. The event highlights the 500 years of historic people, places and events in present-day Florida since Juan Ponce de León landed on our shores in 1513 and named the land La Florida.