March 29th Official Howard Tibbals Day – Sarasota’s 2018 Hero of History

Howard Tibbals working on his masterpiece.

The Historical Society of Sarasota County is proud to announce that Howard Tibbals is Sarasota’s 2018 Hero of History and March 29th is officially Howard Tibbals Day! Thank you and congratulations Howard Tibbals for your tireless efforts all these years in helping to preserve such an important part of American history. We are so lucky to have this incredible work of art here in our home town of Sarasota.

Howard Tibbals Circus

Howard Tibbals receiving the 2018 Hero of History Award.



Tibbals Hero of History Raffle Prizes

Tour Ca’D’Zan with the expert who understands it like no one else in the world. Ca’D’Zan, 36,000 square-feet with 56 rooms. No one knows every inch of the mansion and its grounds like Ronald R. McCarty. He is the Keeper of Ca’D’Zan , who supervised the monumental restoration of the mansion that he likes to call “Mable’s House” You will explore secret places that tourists never see and you will see specific Masonic symbols that were incorporated into the facade of the house as well as Mable’s favorite flowers, zodiac signs, animals and classical symbols that were worked into the glazed patterns. This custom tour is one of Ron McCarty’s last. He is retiring after 38 years, the longest serving employee in the history of The Ringling. Maximum of six people – tour approximately two hours and must be taken by August, 2018.


Tour the Wisconsin with David W. Duncan, a Pullman car historian and the the expert who restored John and Mable Ringling’s fabulous private railroad car. At The Ringling, visitors can glimpse a means of transportation available only to the rich and famous. The amenities for a luxury life on the rails as well as the decorations are extraordinary. This private train car commissioned by John and Mable Ringling was used beginning the year they married in 1905. The tour begins with a look at the Howard Bros. Circus Model. David assisted Howard Tibbals with the installation and continues to assist with the maintenance of the miniature circus. David will arrange the time and date with the winner, but he suggests a Thursday evening when The Ringling is open late the the Wisconsin gallery has fewer tourists. Maximum of four – tour lasts about two hours.


Custom Cooking Class with Chef Judi Gallagher. You have watched her on TV, now you can dice, slice and chop right next to her in the comfortable cook’s kitchen at Southern Steer Butcher for a personalized cooking class followed by enjoying the four-course meal with a glass of wine or beer. This is a crowd pleasing menu of hand-cut, grass fed beef as well as organic vegetables and fruits and is destined to become part of your culinary repertoire, one that you will want to repeat with confidence in your own home for guests and family. During the class, Chef Judi will reveal serving tips and preparation secrets that restaurant chefs rely on. Dress casually, bring your apron and your cooking questions. Maximum six people – lunch or dinner. Time and date to be arranged with fabulous Chef Judi but no weekends.


Lions, Tigers, Bears and Chimps, Oh My! All yours at Big Cat Habitat. Get up close and personal with big and exotic animals. The winner of this rare experience wins a personal tour and chance to feed and get very close the the animals. Your guides are Kay Rosaire, educator/behaviorist who founded Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary in 1987 to protect and give home to large, rare and endangered animals, and her son Clayton Rosaire, one of the few men in the world who can put his head in a lion’s mouth. They will take you on a custom one-hour tour of their extraordinary and fabulous world. This is truly a walk on the wild side that you will never forget. Appetizers and wine served too (for you and friends, not the animals). Bring your camera for sure. Maximum of four – Schedule date and time directly with Kay, Clayton, or Danielle Rosaire.

March Conversations at The Crocker

Gulf Coast Trade with Cuba and Fishing Ranchos

The Conversations at the Crocker series takes look at our long trading traditions with Cuba with emphasis on ranchos when an anthropologist and an archeologist present their research

It might surprise a lot of people in Manatee and Sarasota counties to know that there has been an active Florida trading commerce with Cuba since the 1600s. Mostly it’s been smoked mullet, but also citrus, cattle, and other commodities. At the Historical Society of Sarasota County’s popular series Conversations at The Crocker, an archaeologist and an anthropologist take an in-depth look at Florida’s trade with Cuba. They will focus particular attention on the Cuban fishing ranchos and the origins of modern Sarasota and Manatee. For more than 100 years, Cuban fishermen set up seasonal fishing camps along our coast where they would catch fish, salt them and send them back to Cuba to sell.

This Conversation takes place on Tuesday, March 13 starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park) in Sarasota. Free to members of the Historical Society and students; guests, $10 at the door. 

Leading the Cuba Conversation are archaeologist Jeffrey Moates, and Professor Uzi Baram, a professor of anthropology at New College.  

Three Cuban fisherman are credited with showing Josiah Gates and his brother-in-law fields near a spring on the south side of the Manatee River,” said Jeffrey Moates.  “Gates would use the land to settle a homestead that became the center of the Village of Manatee, today’s eastern part of Bradenton.” And that’s only a tiny part of the story. Using maps, historical photographs and documents, Moates and Baram will draw you into a time and a place of ancient peoples who have left clues to thriving waterside communities. 

Jeffrey Moates is Regional Director for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and he is based at the University of South Florida (USF). In 2010, Moates and USF staff developed and coordinated Rancho Regattas, public programming to celebrate Cuban fishing rancho history and archaeology in Florida.

Uzi Baram is a Professor of Anthropology at New College of Florida and founding director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab. In his experiments with public outreach and community engagement, Prof Baram has commissioned two video games that teach the history and geography of the Cuban fishing ranchos of Sarasota Bay.  

Archaeologist Jeffrey Moates

Priofessor Uzi Batam

Established five years ago by the Historical Society of Sarasota County, Conversations at the Crocker is a series of interactive conversations that explore the people, places and events that have shaped this part of Florida. Before each Conversation, the Historical Society offers docent-led tours of the two heritage properties at Pioneer Park that the society curates, The Bidwell-Wood House (l882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Annual membership at the Historical Society is $35. For more information, contact Linda Garcia, Site Manager, at 941-364-9076

Happy New Year 2018!!

Bidwell-Wood House New Roof

Fall 2017 New Roof

2017 New Roof on Bidwell-Wood House

Bidwell-Wood House has a new Roof!


The Bidwell-Wood House (1882) has a new roof!!! Thanks to a grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and generous donations from the annual appeal we were able to have Sutter Roofing Company do the work. It had been delayed with hurricane Irma this summer and work did not begin until late October and was finished by the end of the year. Please come visit and see how great it looks!

“John & Mable Ringling” in the Holiday Parade

Two of our board members, Ron McCarty and Kathryn Chesley, portrayed the famous couple “John & Mable Ringling” in the 2017 22nd Annual Sarasota Holiday Parade : “The Greatest Parade on Earth” Circus Tribute on Saturday December 2, 2017. The parade was honoring the 65th anniversary of the release of the film “The Greatest Show on Earth” that was filmed here in 1951. We hope your were able to attend and enjoy the spectacular costumes and clowns!

October is Here – Conversations at The Crocker are Back!!

Sarasota’s Waters – Changes in Our Lifetimes

Join the conversation when three experts on water and how Floridians have used waterways in the past have a lively Conversation at The Crocker.

Presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County, the first of this season’s Conversations at the Crocker takes place on Tuesday, October 10 starting at 7 p.m. at the historic Crocker Memorial Church at 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park). The topic is Sarasota Waters – Changes in our Lifetimes and leading the Conversation is John Ryan, a water expert and founding member of Sarasota Bay Watch. 

This lively interactive community conversation (with PowerPoint presentation) is free to Historical Society members and $10 for guests at the door. Joining Ryan on the stage of the Crocker for in this timely conversation about Sarasota’s waterways and how they’ve changed are Rodney Potter and Rob Wright. 

Organized six years ago, the Conversations at The Crocker series highlights specific aspects of Sarasota’s past and examines pivotal events and people who have influenced today’s Sarasota.  

John Ryan is an Environmental Manager with Sarasota County Stormwater where he handles water quality monitoring and pollution regulatory matters. He is a 30-year resident of Sarasota who has had a long career with the County after a short stint with Mote Marine Lab. Ryan helped start the oral history project with New College of Florida that can be seen on the Sarasota Water Atlas website. He was a founding member of Sarasota Bay Watch. 

Rob Wright, who grew up in Nokomis, is currently the Conservation Chair for Sarasota Audubon Society (SAS) and a leading voice on environmental issues. Previously he was the Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) Coordinator for Sarasota County from 2003 – 2016. Wright has been involved in the administration and implementation of environmental management programs in the public and private sector for more than 34 years. 

A lifelong resident of Manatee County, Rodney Potter has worked in the timber industry and in agriculture. He has constructed greenhouses for nurseries and he owned and operated a lettuce farm in the 1950s. He has been a member of the Manatee County Historical Commission for more than 20 years and is an active in hunter and fisherman. As an outdoorsman, his connection with the area’s waterways, is thus both personal and professional and his insights and memories promise to be impressive.

All Conversations take place at The Crocker Memorial Church and proceeds help to maintain the Historical Society’s two heritage properties at Pioneer Park – the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Docent-led tours of both buildings are available an hour before each of the Conversations at The Crocker events. The Historical Society is a membership organization ($35 annually) led by a volunteer board of directors. Co-chairs of Conversations at The Crocker are Lynn Harding and Marsha Fottler. For more information contact Linda Garcia, Site Manager, 941-364-9076.