Storyteller Glassburn regales Manatee County Fairgoers

srocco@bradenton.comJanuary 22, 2014 

PALMETTO -- Underneath blue-fringed banners and through gold-rimmed glasses, Betty Glassburn told the stories of her life in Manatee County.

As vendors doled out corn dogs and cotton candy and families whirled on the Ferris wheel, a small group gathered Tuesday in the Chaires Building on the sixth night of the Manatee County Fair, to hear Glassburn speak.

After all, she's pretty remarkable.

Glassburn, 68, championed the 4-H movement in Manatee, beginning in 1974. She was named the Manatee County Distinguished Citizen in 2012. That year, the Manatee County Commission crowned "Miss Betty Day" on Dec. 11, 2012.

"I will be a 4-H leader until the day I die," she told a group of eight.

Marsha Johnson, coordinator of the fair's Storytellers of Manatee County History series, was thrilled to have Glassburn, a Manatee Coun

ty institution, as a guest speaker.

"She's such a good history speaker lady. She's great," Johnson said.

Glassburn, a Duette native, grew up in a strawberry school in the strawberry capital of the world.

"You didn't have a summer vacation -- you had a winter vacation -- because all the kids picked strawberries," she said.

Duette Elementary was a one-teacher school in the 1950s and still is today. It's the only one-teacher school left in the state.

Leaning on her walker, Glassburn recounted the time she was spanked by her school principal after she whacked a boy who hit her: "I kicked him as hard as I could," she smiled.

Glassburn, a seventh-generation Manatee Countian, has attended Dry Prairie Baptist Church, the only church in Duette, for as long as she can remember. Her father, a logger, cut the timbers for the rafters when the church was built in 1954. His Bible is wedged inside its wall.

"That church means a lot to me," she said.

Glassburn, a mother of three and grandmother of five, keeps her 4-H youngsters close to her heart. In a time where families are often ripped apart, Glassburn teaches unity, love and respect.

"The kids will tell you gladly that they're from Duette," she said, "Because Duette is a community to be reckoned with."

The Storytellers of Manatee History series at the Manatee County Fair will continue at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.

Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow @sabrinarocco on Twitter.

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