Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 9 - Special Events
Fort Mose Visitor Center Groundbreaking
Florida State Parks; Public Outreach for Land and Recreation; Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: Fort Mose is the earliest known free African settlement in the United States. More than 250 years ago, African slaves found refuge in a coastal village of Spanish Colonial Florida. Africans escaping slavery in the colony of Carolina fled south into Florida, where they were emancipated for serving as Spanish militia under Captain Francisco Menendez, an escaped slave. Fort Mose–now a National Historic Landmark–functioned as a Spanish defense line against British invaders and stood as a fortress, protecting a village of close to 40 families.
Research was done to write speeches, create a Black History curriculum poster and event press releases. The target audience included citizens of Florida, especially those with an interest in Florida and black history, 4th grade students and 4th grade teachers. Fourth grade is when Florida students study black history.

Objectives: The objectives were 1) to host a memorable Black History Month event, with a minimum of 300 attendees, 2) to educate the audience about the early settlers at Fort Mose and the importance of Black History Month, 3) to recognize the members of the Fort Mose Historical Society for their contributions, 4) to promote the new Fort Mose Visitor Center, and share information about the planned facility.

Implementation: Staff worked with the Governor's Office for five months prior to the event. The site location for the new center was prepared and site visits were made to plan every detail. Invitations were created and sent to the Governor and Cabinet, legislators, agency heads, the Fort Mose Historical Society, the Venetian Club of St. Augustine, local officials, VISIT FLORIDA and others in the tourism industry. Tents, chairs, tables, restroom facilities, heaters, electricity, a podium, stage and speaker system were ordered. VIP parking and security were arranged, along with a trolley to transport visitors from an off-site parking lot. Neighbors were notified of the upcoming event by receiving a flier. Programs, banners and displays were created. Speakers were invited and speeches were written for the Governor and FL Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Secretary. The Edward Waters College Choir was invited to sing and Pastor Lorenzo Laws, founding member and former president of the Historical Society, was asked to do the invocation. A media advisory was created prior to the event and a press release was created following the event. The Governor, FDEP and Florida State Parks promoted the event on their websites.
FDEP partnered with the Governor’s Office to create a statewide Black History Month curriculum poster for 4th grade students. FDEP contributed $3,000 towards a traveling exhibit featuring artifacts, books and educational activities highlighting the early settlement. The exhibit was to travel from school to school before being permanently placed in the new visitor center. Students from Southwood Elementary School in Elkton were invited.
A thank you card was created and inserted in the program that was handed out at the event, honoring members of the Fort Mose Historical Society for their tireless efforts in keeping the vision of a visitor center alive for over ten years. Remarks were also included in the Governor's and Secretary’s speeches. Reverend Lorenzo Laws, founding member and former president of the Historical Society, gave the invocation.
A mock check for $1,060,725 was presented to FDEP and a rendering of the new visitor center was unveiled. The Governor’s remarks explained the significance of the new visitor center and the history of the site. The Governor, First Lady Columba Bush and other designees participated in a groundbreaking ceremony following the remarks from the speakers.

Evaluation: 1) Approximately 500 people attended the event (167%), in spite of the unusually cold 28-degree temperature. Refreshments were donated by the Venetian Club of St. Augustine. The Edward Waters College Choir sang the Negro National Anthem. Re-enactors in period dress attended the event.
2) All Florida 4th grade teachers received the curriculum/posters to use in conjunction with their existing Black History Month lesson plans. The traveling exhibit began its journey to schools. Southwood Elementary School students attended, along with chaperons from Pedro Menendez High School.
3) The Ft. Mose Historical Society was awarded the Points of Light Award by the Governor, recognizing a Florida resident or organization that demonstrates exemplary service to the community.
4) Jacksonville’s Channel 4 News covered the event and aired it that evening. Articles were written by the Florida Times Union, and St. Augustine Record before and after the event. The facility is now finished, but is not open yet; therefore, it is not possible to get attendance figures.

Budget: Project costs were kept to a minimum. Invitations and programs were designed in-house. The trolley and refreshments were donated. Traveling exhibit: $3,000. All other expenses (tents, chairs, tables, podium, speaker system, heaters, invitations, programs, posters, shovels and displays): $3,652. Total Cost: $6,652.