Education

Florida country music, nostalgia on tap for Duette Elementary Fall Fest 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday

EAST MANATEE -- Florida's last one-room school opens its doors to the community Saturday for a day of country music, down-home cooking and rural nostalgia.

Duette Elementary Fall Festival, a two-decade tradition, is set on the school grounds from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 40755 State Road 62, Duette.

The JD Lewis Band, with the husband-and-wife team of Johnny and Zetha Lewis, will perform Florida backwoods country songs between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The concert, admission to the fair, and parking are all free.

"Our roots in the Florida sand go deep," Johnny Lewis said Thursday. "I write music mostly about Florida and its people. That's where my heart is."

Lewis, a seventh-generation Floridian, said his youngest daughter attended school at Duette Elementary, and some of his ancestors attended even earlier schools in the Duette-Fort Lonesome area.

Tours of the school will be held throughout the day. The school opened in 1930 as a "strawberry school" to allow children of farm families to help bring in crops.

Following the musical performance at 2 p.m., there will be an auction of an iPad, a fishing trip, appliances, furniture, Earth Boxes, shopping and restaurant certificates, tickets to SeaWorld, Kennedy Space Center, and Disney World, said teacher assistant Susan Bassler, who retired as principal of Samoset Elementary School in 2003.

Also to be auctioned are new girl's and boy's bicycles.

The fall festival is the most significant fundraiser of the year for Duette Elementary, which has an enrollment of 16. Duette Elementary has not been funded by the Manatee School District since 2009.

Donna King, principal of the school, said she received some good news recently when Mosaic's Four Corners Mine awarded Duette Elementary a $10,000 grant.

In addition, Orban's Nursery in Northwest Bradenton has chosen the school as a beneficiary of its annual holiday poinsettia drive-through Nov. 29, King said. Orban's will also be donating a portion of the proceeds to the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscapers Association scholarship fund.

Local farmers will have fresh produce for sale, and prepared food,including barbecue sandwiches, boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes, hamburgers and hotdogs, will be available for purchase.

There will be games for all ages, bounce houses, crafters, and more.

Information: 941-721-6674.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.

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