“Spirit Voices from Old Manatee” relives history of Manatee County

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Have you ever wondered how Manatee County originated?

In the mid 1800s, pioneers made their way into the area, shaping the formation and evolution of Manatee County.

But who were these early settlers?

They were fathers, mothers and children, Native Americans, veteran soldiers and Southern belles just to name a few.

Their stories are rich with triumph and tragedy with the occasional escapade along the way; and this month, residents will have the opportunity to meet some of Manatee County’s early pioneers while learning more about the development of the area from 1840 to the turn of the century during the annual “Spirit Voices from Old Manatee” at the Manatee Village Historical Park.

The historical, graveside drama begins Oct. 6, with performances offered every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 22 with the exception of Oct. 8.

“It gives people a sense of history of their area,” says Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Angel Colonneso, who saw the production for the first time five years ago. “It tells how Bradenton got its start even with all of the things they went through. It describes how life was, and gives you a real sense of place and a sense of history.”

Tickets are $20 per person and space is limited. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with Act I scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Due to the interactive nature of the performances, all attendees will be required to sign a waiver at the gate.

This year marks the seventh and final season for the outdoor historical drama presented by the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. The immersive play and cemetery tour premiered in 2011 as an original living history production.

When guests arrive, they will be ushered into the 1887 Meeting House Church where a Victorian wake is being held for a child. After gathering together, the minister will say a few words before leading everyone in a torchlight processional to the 1850 Manatee Burying Grounds.

Costumed thespians bring to life early pioneers of the Village of Manatee, veteran soldiers of the Seminole and Civil Wars and other prominent people in the area.

“It’s not as morbid as it sounds,” Angel says. “There’s humor mixed in as they share tidbits about their lives and tell the story of how they came to live in Manatee County. It’s interesting.”

For the duration of the historical production, the early settlers, portrayed by costumed actors, will share riveting graveside stories based on archives, descendants, diaries, military logs, books and legend.

Proceeds from “Spirit Voices from Old Manatee” will help the Manatee County Historical Commission to broaden its mission to preserve and share the heritage of Manatee County’s founding period between 1840 and 1918 while also benefiting public programming and preservation projects at Manatee Village Historical Park.