Photo gallery below
SUN CITY CENTER – Backing pretty words with plenty of action, this community sallied forth on its second half century this week with gusto.
Under clear blue skies accompanied by light sub-tropical breezes, the retirement center where developer Del Webb first turned dirt 50 years ago kicked off its year- long 50th birthday party Sunday with a colorful, noisy, strutting parade. And then followed it up with a community picnic soaked in free Italian Ices and fueled with four-bit hot dogs. Webb, who was breaking new ground on several levels in 1961when he envisioned a town devoted to an active life in maturity, surely would be proud.
More than 50 units rolled, careened and clattered past appreciative crowds estimated at 2000-plus, comfortable in their strategically placed golf carts, seated on residential lawns, gathered under shade trees on the Central Campus. Many of them represented the multiple dozens of clubs in the community, exhibiting both creativity and spontaneity in the process.
Take the Cat Fancier’s Club, for instance, in their decorated cart with a long, black swishing tail and sans any rocking chair to inhibit the feline progress. Then there were the SCC Timesteppers who promote tap dancing for, among other things, fitness; one member’s long, graceful, kicky gam inviting attention. The Woodcarvers Club sent “Geppetto” creating his son, “Pinocchio.” And who could not appreciate the “wrinkled riders,” members of the SCC Bikers who pilot everything from scooters to Harleys.
Numerous community-conscious organizations were represented, including the American Association of University Women who drew loud feminine cheers when Channel 8 Meteorologist and Parade Marshall Steve Jerve announced “they speak out on issues such as…affirmative action and sex discrimination.” Another was the SCC Purple Butterflies Chapter of the Red Hat Society, part of the largest social group in the world with 70,000 members in 20,000 chapters in 26 different countries. They were not all in the parade, however.
Yet another was the Men’s Club of SCC, largest and oldest service club in the association, founded in 1962 and dedicated to equipping residents who need it with the Lifeline system, a medical alert and personal help arrangement. Joining the services-oriented lineup were local Hillsborough County Sheriff’s command personnel and the SCC Security Patrol and the SCC Emergency Squad and the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue ladder truck from local Station 28.
From rousing gospel hymns delivered by members of First United Methodist’s choir from their large float to upbeat rag belted out by the award-winning Riverview High School Shark Band to the raucous antics of SCC Shriners circling one another in their honking “cars” to the East Bay High School Marching Indians, the sounds of the parade were unmistakable.
Several long and elaborate floats graced the parade route, too. Neighboring Freedom Plaza, likening itself to “Camelot,” presented the cast from a recent production along those lines. And, Kings Point, this year observing its 40th anniversary, added its float to the parade with a version of their famed Tudor clubhouse. Another Freedom Plaza entry was the Retired Officers’ Corporation float manned by military commanders from every branch of the U.S. armed services, brightly turned out in full dress uniforms.
The U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force also were represented in the Joint Communications Support Element color guard from MacDill AFB. The JCSE deploys on 18 hours notice to provide communications support to combat and special operations commands. Another military unit was the SCC Leathernecks, former U.S. Marines and Navy corpsmen who support brothers-in-arms on active duty in Afghanistan.
It was a parade well done, said Roxann Seeley, coordinator, after the event. She attributed the nearly flawless birthday bash beginning to members of CERT, the Amateur Radio Club and Security Patrol volunteers “who actually made it happen,” she added. She also credited her committee – Margaret Kuss, Uta Kuhn, Pam Treadwell and Dolores Whitfield – whom she described as “amazingly competent and hard working.” And, she added, it is General Chairman and SCC Community Association Director “Ann Marie LeBlanc’s exquisite vision that is coming to life.”
Much the same sentiments were echoed by the several elected officials who did not make any formal remarks. Senator Ronda Storms was unable to attend but zeroed in on the community’s various characteristics as she formally proclaimed the day “Sun City Center Appreciation Day.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, whose 12th congressional district includes Sun City Center and who rode the parade route in a shiny 1969 Camaro convertible, noted later that the community embodies “the best of America – hard work, love of country and compassion.” Its citizens “always will have a friend in me,” he added.
Al Higginbotham, current county commission chairman whose district 4 encompasses the community, after alighting from a 1962 candy-apple red Cadillac convertible declared the event “the best I’ve attended in SCC in all the years I’ve been involved here. It has such a homecoming feeling,” he added.
Fellow Commissioner Ken Hagan, now a county-wide representative, accompanied by his young son and cruising the parade in a gleaming 1956 Ford Sunliner ragtop, said he was struck once again “by the sense of community and volunteerism present in SCC. It cannot be matched,” he emphasized, “and the parade is but one more excellent example of that.”
Another county-wide commissioner, Kevin Beckner, on the other hand, looked to the future from a glossy 1937 Ford street rod convertible in which he toured the route. He saw the event as “giving momentum to move forward ; continuing to build something more than a mere housing development – a special beautiful community.”
The year of celebrating “Lifestyle for the Young at Heart” continues during the next 12 months with a wide array of scheduled socials, home tours, shows, fireworks, tournaments, parades and exhibits, wrapping up with a “60s Gala and Grand Finale” on April 20, 2012, in Community Hall.
Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson