Friday, January 31, 2014

Pioneer Days Go On... But Not In Belle Isle

At last night's emergency meeting, the Pioneer Days committee voted to relocate the Pine Castle Pioneer Days festival to Cypress Grove Park after Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke offered county sponsorship of the event.

It appears that Belle Isle's last minute $1,700 security bill to an already struggling 501(c) non-profit organization was the last straw for most of the committee members. In previous years, event volunteers provided security for Pioneer Days. However, Belle Isle's new security and community event rules require paid security provided by the Belle Isle Police Department unless the event qualifies as a "Belle Isle community event" or the Council votes to waive the charge.

In addition to this last-minute security bill, City Hall's decision to deny access to the athletic field and other festival areas cut the usable festival space down to a minimum. When combined with the increasing difficulties that the Pioneer Days committee has faced during the planning process with City Hall over the past few years, the committee had little choice but to move the festival out of Belle Isle or cancel it altogether.

This is a huge loss for Belle Isle. We have lost the only regular celebration of local history that takes place in our City. More importantly, we have lost one of the few remaining events that ties our City to its neighbors - continuing Belle Isle's trend towards isolation from the surrounding community.

But at least Pioneer Days will go on, and with a beautiful new location on Lake Jessamine! Here is the official release by the Pioneer Days committee:

Pine Castle Pioneer Days is growing - bigger and better!

In preparing to host our annual festival on February 22 & 23, we are excited to announce a new venue:

Cypress Grove Park
290 West Holden Avenue
Orlando, FL 32809

This site is only 2 miles north of our former festival grounds and offers a spacious park setting on the beautiful north shore of Lake Jessamine. The park is being made available through our dynamic partnership with Orange County government, and will allow us to expand the many features of Pioneer Days that our family, friends, and neighbors have grown to love over the past four decades.

Parking will be more ample and easier to access.

Vendor booth spaces will now be on kid-friendly sod instead of hard asphalt.

Historical encampments, reenactments, and Native American dancing will have room to grow.

New staging and an amphitheater will raise the profile of our amazingly talented musicians, opening ceremonies, and Sunday sunrise services.

And, with all these improvements, we will continue to offer plenty of opportunities to engage young pioneers and old timers, including complimentary horse-drawn carriages, a souvenir history magazine, and train-related activities to reflect our 2014 theme: "All Aboard for Pioneer Days!"

As we make this move, we thank our former hosts at the City of Belle Isle and wish them well with their plans to redevelop the old festival grounds to better serve the Cornerstone Charter Academy students and families.

The PCPD Board of Directors is excited about this new venue and the benefits it offers to the participants and the public and we look forward to welcoming you to Cypress Grove Park over the last weekend in February 2014, and for many years to come.

William S. Morgan, V
2013-14 Chairman


  1. Sad day for residents of Belle Isle yet a fantastic day for Pine Castle Pioneer Days! A note of appreciation to Keith Severns for the impetus for PCPD to move and a huge thank you to Commissioner Pete Clarke and senior aide, Kevan Behan, for their offer and extraordinary efforts in making this move.

  2. Yes, it is a sad situation, however, I think it is a blessing for the event to attract more visitors and grow in size and increased attendees. We will miss the village environment, but maybe large panel photos will be made for display so all will be able to see pictures of former Pioneer Days.
    Thank you to all who have worked in a positive way to make this a well attended annual event.

  3. It is truly a shame that Belle Isle officials did not see Pioneer Days as an opportunity to showcase the city by hosting this event. They sure do invest a lot of hype into a screening of the lame "Despicable Me" sequel, though . . . a bit of irony in that title selection, Mr. Severns?!

  4. I am very disappointed City of Belle Isle saw dollar signs instead of community spirit. I want to hide my head in shame as a council member for not seeing this coming. I will ask a lot of questions to the mayor and city manager in a effort to get to the bottom of this travesty for Belle Isle.
    I do like the new location and good for our county officials for stepping up with a great solution.

  5. Another example of how the community of Belle Isle is being lead in the wrong direction by a few people! When will this end?

  6. Get your friends and neighbors out to vote for new council members on March 11!!!! We can change the direction of Belle Isle.

  7. How can we find information on the candidates? My mission from today till March 11th is to rally residents of Belle Isle to educate themselves and vote. We need to stop the madness!

  8. Let's follow Pioneer Days' example of taking positive steps in reaction to mismanagement of our city by Keith Severns. We only need 4 council votes to fire him and find a qualified manager who will recognize and invest in our community's assets.

  9. Hooray for Pete Clarke. At least someone has forward vision. Sure is lacking in Belle Isle - right Mr. Severns?

    How about our Commissioners stepping up to the plate - we certainly need someone at the city helm with vision and common sense!

  10. I have yet to see a post on the Pioneer Days web site or Facebook page thanking the City of Belle Isle for their generous $1000 contribution to Pioneer Days.

  11. Was the author of this Pioneer Days article (or any of the people that commented) in attendance at any of the meetings/discussions between
    Belle Isle and Pioneer Days? If not how can you bash the City Belle Isle
    without knowing all the facts?


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