By Erika Webb
Concrete facts aren't required to manufacture a good story. Legends and hearsay are capable of enduring just fine, often for centuries.
The rich, though not absolute, history of Florida, for example, is being depicted via a series of quilt squares -- 500 to be exact -- made by Volusia County Public Library patrons to commemorate the state's 500 year anniversary.
Not unlike historic events, the squares have been merged into congruity. The result: five quilts that will make their way around the county this year.
From Jan. 9-24, they were on display in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building rotunda. Next, the quilts will provide the backdrop for a traveling one-act play, "Ultimate Field Trip," written and directed by Volusia County Library employee Karen Poulsen to commemorate the Viva Florida 500 celebration happening all around Florida this year.
"Viva Florida 500 is a statewide initiative led by the Florida Department of State, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, to highlight the 500 years of historic people, places and events in Florida since the arrival of Juan Ponce de Leon," according to the Viva Florida 500 website.
The initiative will continue through the end of 2013, with many partners planning more than 150 events statewide.
The traveling quilts are the combined efforts of local residents, ranging in age from 6 to 80.
Volusia County Library associate Chelsea Harrison said the library quilt project was the result of a Viva Florida 500 committee brainstorming session. Some of the libraries had programs for children to complete their squares. There also were stations set up at the libraries for adults to work on theirs.
Various media were used to create the individual pictures for each square, Ms. Harrison said. "Some were cross-stitched, and some were painted. Some people took pictures and ironed them on the squares. Some were actually quilted, and some were in pencil and ink. Those came out really neat."
"Some people used stickers. Those aren't holding up so well," Ms. Harrison said.
Sequined flamingos, a nine-year-old girl's magic marker rendering of a Florida Panther and the painted face of an early native settler are a few of the works represented.
A shark, pelican, astronaut, space shuttle, porpoise, hummingbird, surfer, oranges, hibiscus flowers, palm trees -- even the unofficial state menace, the cockroach -- are portrayed in the squares.
After the "Ultimate Field Trip" play's tour through the county, the quilts will be displayed in the Ormond Beach Library in May, but the list of subsequent library locations with corresponding dates for the quilts display has yet to be finalized, Ms. Harrison said.
Five hundred years ago Spanish explorer and conquistador Ponce de Leon led the first European expedition to the shores of Florida, which he named La Florida -- "Land of Flowers." It is reported he and his crew had their first glimpse of the peninsula on April 2, 1513, but there is ongoing dispute among historians as to whether the expedition landed at St. Augustine or in the Volusia harbor now called Ponce de Leon Inlet. Some argue his first approach was even farther south near Melbourne Beach.
Also questionable is that whole Fountain of Youth legend that had northerners arriving en masse at DeLeon Springs during the late 1800s to rejuvenate in temperate waters, naturally infused with soda and sulfur.
As it turns out, those early events only formed the tip of the orange blossom when it comes to Florida's renowned diversity.
Greeks, Spaniards, Cubans, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, South Americans, Native Americans and many others have bestowed cultural riches upon the Sunshine State.
"We're one better than a melting pot. Cultures don't dissolve into one another here in Florida," the Viva Florida 500 website noted. "They remain whole, creating a collage of ethnicity that represents the global community, with special emphasis on tropical latitudes and seaworthy heritage."
Florida has the longest recorded history of any state in the nation, home to Native Americans for at least 12,000 years, according to the website.
If, as Napoleon said, "geography is destiny," this gateway to the United States from the Caribbean and beyond has done its part to shape the nation's present and future.
"The Ultimate Field Trip" dramatic production includes discovery, comedy, romance and poignant scenes. The trip through 500 years of state history begins in the early 1500s and takes the audience on a journey through five centuries, highlighting 10 legends of Florida, according to the Volusia County website.
Touring Production schedule
With the Viva 500 Quilts as a backdrop, the "Ultimate Field Trip" will be performed at several locations in Volusia County:
Ormond Beach Library, 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.
Deltona Library, 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Daytona Beach Library on City Island, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6.
New Smyrna Beach Library, 2 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11.
Hopkins Hall in Lake Helen, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13.
DeBary Hall, 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14.
Port Orange Library, 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Edgewater Library, 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22.
Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28.