Come celebrate Lighthouse Day this Saturday

April 15, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

■ STAFF REPORT     1-lighthouse 1895
Visitors to Gasparilla Island State Park will have the rare opportunity to tour the lamp room at the top of the Historic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse on April 16.
The Barrier Island Parks Society and Florida Park Service invite everyone to come celebrate Florida Lighthouse Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.
It was declared by the Governor of Florida to designate a day every year to engage the public and educate people about the history of Florida lighthouses.
Barrier Island Parks Society Executive Director Sharon McKenzie said Florida Lighthouse Day was initiated by Florida Lighthouse Association as a way to bring more awareness and education to the public on lighthouses.
“Our (BIPS) board members are also members of that organization, and we got together and decided to schedule a day in April to celebrate. It’s usually scheduled for every third Saturday in April, unless it interferes with Easter. We made a schedule for ten years out. All the lighthouses in the state try to do a celebration that day. Some that are not normally open to the public will open for the day. So, in our case this is a very significant day,” McKenzie said.
Guests can climb up the ladder that leads to the catwalk and then go out to the external area. There is a drum lens for looking out over the water. The catwalk is not that wide, so there is a maximum capacity of six people traveling the stairs to the top at any given time.
The house-dwelling style lighthouse is home to a comprehensive museum that opened in 1999. The museum is comprised of five rooms. Three of the rooms are set in chronological order and cover cultural and social history. The fourth room is the nature room, which contains an area featuring local bones, fossils and shells. The fifth room is the museum gift shop offering an array of souvenirs, local artwork and jewelry.
“It’s an exciting day – people love it. They come from all different areas to climb to the top. It’s really a fun event, and we have people return every year. We’ll have historians and docents there discussing history and also a few nonprofits like authors and service members from the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” McKenzie said.
More than 150 people attended the event last year.
Visitors can enjoy arts and crafts, games, free gifts, and cake and refreshments at the festival.
There will be a $5 charge for the lamp house tours. Children under 10 are free. You must be six or older to climb the stairs and ladder to the top.
Gasparilla Island State Park is located at 880 Belcher Road in Boca Grande.
For more information, call (941) 964-0060.