DeFuniak Springs, FL…Cannon blasts, camps, campers, car shows, live creatures and at least one international celebrity are expected to attract up to 15,000 people this weekend to the annual Florida Chautauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs starting Thursday, January 23 and ending Sunday, January 26. This year’s Assembly theme is “A Journey into the World of Motion Pictures,” featuring a keynote presentation by Demond Wilson, co-star of the 1970s hit TV series Sanford and Son. Wilson will address the Assembly Friday, January 24 at Walton High School auditorium, 9:00 a.m. then plant a tree in the Lake Yard on Circle Drive at 11:45 a.m. with President Christopher Mitchell of the Florida Chautauqua Center, Inc. (the organization hosting the 4-day program.)
More than a dozen free exhibits will fill the Lake Yard on Circle Drive and will compliment the event, including a Civil War Camp and skirmish reenactments, Muscogee Indian Gathering, Buffalo Soldiers of Marianna, Florida Frontiersmen Settlement Camp, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge animal exhibit, Florida Forest Service tented nature trail, Home Depot Kids Clinic, Tin Can Campers Vintage RV and camper show, Chautauqua Cruisers car show, Walton School District student museum exhibit on Groundbreaking Television Shows, Plein Air Paint Out and Wet Paint Art Show, and Florida Chautauqua History Exhibit. A porcelain art show will be at the DeFuniak Springs Community Center Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The historic DeFuniak Springs Library and Walton Heritage Museum on Circle Drive in the Lake Yard will also be open during special hours throughout the event.
Home Depot of Panama City Beach will offer a free Kids Clinic on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. in the Amphitheater in the Lake Yard. Home Depot representatives say they will bring up to 1,000 bird house building kits and other related packets for children to build and take home for free. Florida Forest Service is also planning a tree give-a-way on Friday.
A new major attraction at this year’s Assembly is the Tin Can Campers exhibit on Circle Drive. Historian of the Tin Can Tourists, Tim Heintz, will be found at this site displaying the biggest and oldest of the campers. He invites attendees to view refurbished 1940-60s era trailers and learn about the lifestyle of the campers who originated this club in 1919. Mr. Heintz will explain the everyday life of these “on the road” campers who visited Florida and recorded in their journals what life “on the road” entailed in those bygone days. At least 15-20 camping trailers will be showcased. The group’s website provides a rich display of more details: www.tincantourists.com.
Civil War skirmishes and reenactments will be Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The Chautauqua Cruisers Antique Car Show will be on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
All exhibits are free. Food vendors will be on site in the Lake Yard. Those wishing to purchase tickets to hear or meet Demond Wilson can call 850-892-7613 for tickets. $15 for his presentation or the ticket can be upgraded to $50 back stage pass which includes his presentation and having a photograph taken with him as he signs and gives an autographed copy of his book, “Second Banana: The Bittersweet Memoirs of the Sanford and Son Years.”
Passports (money-saving book of tickets) may be purchased at $135 for all sessions and meals of the Assembly or can be upgraded to a Platinum Passport which includes a back stage pass to meet Demond Wilson and to receive his autographed book.
Tickets and Passports/Platinum Passports may be purchased at the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood during the event located at 95 Circle Drive, DeFuniak Springs, or by calling (850) 892-7613 prior to Thursday, January 23. For full schedule of all sessions and free exhibits, visit www.FloridaChautauquaAssembly.org.