Bicentennial Spotlight: 2021 Florida Territorial Bicentennial Celebration



On July 17, 1821, Spain transferred control of Florida to the United States.

Now, after 200 years and months of planning and promoting, Florida Territorial Bicentennial and Escambia County 200th Anniversary will be commemorated with a great community Party Saturday July 17 at Museum Plaza in downtown Pensacola.

“It will be a celebration of the diversity of Pensacola, not only of what it was, but of what it is today,” said Dr Judy Bense, UWF Archaeologist Emeritus and President of Pensacola- Escambia 200.e Anniversary Commission.

She says that from the start of their planning, the focus has been on the enduring diversity that – for two centuries – has been passed down from the new US territory and its newly created Escambia County.

“We still have the same ethnicities here in town. The numbers are different, but the cultures are very much alive, African-American, Hispanic, Native American and French.

This diversity will be reflected in the program and the activities of the day.

“We have a Mariachi band that is going to play Mariachi music for some beautiful costumed, swirling dancers from Mexico,” she said. “Then we’ll have African drummers from the Congo, and they’re going to dance and play drum music. “

This special day in history will begin with a sunrise ceremony by the Santa Rosa Creek tribe. Bense says that all are welcome to attend, however no filming, recording or photography will be allowed at this sacred service, “It’s a bit like our Easter sunrise service in the Christian religion. It is a very solemn ceremony as we see the sun rise and remember the meaning of the day.


Listen to Sandra Averhart’s full interview with Dr. Judy Bense.

After a break of a few hours for breakfast or groceries, the rest of the day’s festivities will begin at Museum Plaza (120 Church St.), which is the approximate location (some historians believe it’s close to Plaza Ferdinand) where the original ceremony took place.

“The UWF band will be playing historic patriotic songs and Dr Britton Braddock (director of bands and music education at the Grier Williams School of Music) is doing the research and the band is practicing and it’s going to signal to come together,” Bense said. . “Then we will make the dignitaries talk. “

Scheduled to begin around 10 a.m., the official program will include proclamations and remarks by US Senator from Florida and former Governor Rick Scott, Sec. of State Laurel Lee, Captain Tim Kinsella, Commander of Naval Air Station Pensacola, and a host of local dignitaries, such as Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson and Escambia County Commission Chairman Robert Bender.


Courtesy of Judith Bense

1827 Map of West Florida by John L. Williams

“Then we’re going to have the flag raising ceremony,” Bense said, noting that everyone will have to stand up and turn around as the flagpole is at the back of Pensacola’s new history museum.

“And, we’re going to have the Star-Spangled Banner play (which she did in 1821). Yes, he did, right after it was accepted as our national anthem. It was one of the first games of it.

In a special touch, Dr Bense pointed out that great care has been taken to recreate the ceremony of 200 years ago with a level of historic precision.

“And, one thing I want to tell you about the flag, what flag was hoisted in 1821. And that is the 23 star flag,” she said, noting that the 23 stars represented the 23 states. Americans at that time.

Florida, which only became a state in 1845, had just come under American control.

“We were a territory and that’s what we celebrate.

In honor of this flag, local restaurants have created a Cocktail Salutation 23 stars, based on ingredients documented in The Floridian newspaper advertisements of 1821.

In addition, there will be a story-themed treasure hunt for children and bicentennial reenactors.

“Friday, the day before and the same day, they will be re-enacting various battles that took place here and elsewhere as part of the transformation of Florida into US territory,” said Bense.

Bense to WUWF.jpg

Sandra Averhart

Dr. Judy Bense is chair of the Pensacola-Escambia County 200th Anniversary Commission.

Costumed reenactors will also be on hand to help show off a replica of a keelboat that was in use during this time in local history.

“The keelboat is like a freighter. It’s small, probably only 30 to 40 feet long, but that’s what went up and down the rivers from Pensacola to Pace and Milton, Jay, Cantonment, those areas, ”Bense said.

The boat will be on display at Pitt Slip behind The Fish House, 600 S. Barracks St.

One of the highlights of the ceremony will be the unveiling of a new historic landmark on the occasion of the territorial bicentenary.

“As soon as the American flag is hoisted and people are gathered around the pole, we will unveil just a large historical marker, one side is in English. One side is in Spanish.

The winner of the bicentennial essay competition will be announced. And, to commemorate the occasion, there will be an overview of the Navy 6e Training Squadron out of Whiting Field.

Florida Bicentennial Territorial Celebration will take place at the Museum Plaza behind the Pensacola History Museum, with the official ceremony starting around 10 a.m.

To find out more, go online at Visit or check out this story on our website,

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.