By Martie Thompson
The annual Bartram Bash, a unique, family friendly event celebrating naturalist William Bartram and his influence on the history of NW St. Johns County, will be held at Alpine Groves Park on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. This event has been held nearly annually since its inception in 2005, with a hiatus during the pandemic, according to St. Johns County Parks and Rec Supervisor of Environmental Education and Outdoor Recreation Kelly Ussia.
“The event was started originally by well-known former St. Johns County Park Naturalist Beverly Fleming,” Ussia said. “Her vision was to celebrate William Bartram and Alpine Groves Park, and the event has evolved over the years.”
On May 6, members of the Friends of Alpine Park will conduct tours of the historic Harris-Bennett Farmhouse from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. during Bartram Bash.
“Our docents will share the history of Alpine Groves Park, including families who lived in the farmhouse or merely used it as a weekend getaway,” said Marti Roese, president of the Friends of Alpine Park. “We will also educate our visitors on some of the items that have been acquired in furnishing the farmhouse.”
Also during the morning, there will be live demonstrations with historical reenactor Mike Adams as William Bartram. Adams will share his knowledge of Bartram and life during his time. Native American History will also be celebrated with Jimmy Sawgrass.
The Stetson Kennedy Foundation will present its annual Fellow Man and Mother Earth Award at a ceremony beginning at 12 p.m. After the award ceremony, attendees are invited to bring chairs, blankets and picnics and enjoy folk music performed on the porch of the farmhouse by the band Skin and Bonz until 2 p.m.
Parking is available at both parking lots within the park and the event is free of charge.
According to Al Abbatiello, chairman of the William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway Management Group, his group’s members including Fleming did the planning, organizing, cooking, and serving food at the first few Bartram Bash events.
“It was felt that serving food was necessary to attract and encourage residents to attend,” Abbatiello said. “We served hotdogs and burgers, water, and potato chips — and a big birthday cake in honor of William Bartram’s birthday. The cake was always donated by Publix and cash contributions helped pay for the music groups that entertained the crowd.”
Food is no longer served, but the event continues to thrive today with live music and many displays of earth-friendly goods and services.
“The Bartram Bash is unique to the northwest part of St. Johns County, with all groups integral to the area coming together to put on the event,” Ussia said. “It provides a great opportunity for everyone to come out and explore and learn more about the park that they have likely already visited. We hope to see the whole community there!”
Photo courtesy St. Johns County
Historical reenactors including Mike Adams as William Bartram and Jimmy Sawgrass at a previous Bartram Bash.