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History comes alive at De Soto National Memorial

MANATEE -- A community’s history seemed to come alive Saturday night the De Soto National Memorial with the second Winter Festival and Luminary Walk.

A quarter mile trail of lights was set up with two living history demonstrations, one showing what life was like for the Tocobaga tribe, and the other depicting the day-to-day life in the Spanish camp of Hernando De Soto.

As Jorge Acevedo, chief of interpretation explained, the goal for the Spaniards at the time was to conquer the land as they adapted to life in their new settings.

Each camp was constructed as historically accurate as possible with park employees describing scenes and showing how people ate, cooked, dressed and behaved in that era.

History buff Clint Ogle was impressed by the talk Daniel Stephens, a park ranger interpreter, gave at DeSoto’s camp about the customs of the early explorers.

“I thought it was fantastic,” Clint, 11, said, who found it most interesting how the Spaniards celebrated Christmas, “I didn’t know they opened Christmas presents in January.”

In the Native American camp, visitors saw how conch shells were used as tools and how fire was made.

For Brenda Richey and her husband, Walter, seeing the recreation of life was in the 16th century was not only educational but it made them appreciate their modern conveniences.

“This is excellent. To see how they did things back then and how they used shells to dig, I would have never thought that,” Brenda Richey, 41, said.

A guitarist and violinist played pieces from the 16th century at their stations while dressed in period attire.

At the edge of the trail with a backdrop where the Manatee River, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet Juan Leon played the Native American flute. Which, he said, has no roots in Central America.

As Jeanne Phillips finished her walk through the trail she paused to give the violinist a quick listen before leaving the 16th century for the 21st.

“I loved it,” Phillips, 53, said.