The City of Davenport

The City of Davenport

The Gateway to the Ridge

STORY AND PHOTOS BY TAMMY SEREBRIN

As one drives north east on Highway 17/92 from Lakeland or Winter Haven, you will happen upon Davenport, Florida; a town of 3,000 people, and the highest point of central Florida’s Ridge. Up until now, I thought of Davenport as a series of motels, fast food restaurants and gas stations along Highway 27 just of off I-4. It is so much more, which is obvious when you enter the town and see the historic district, the well preserved 1927 City Hall, the quiet neat neighborhoods, the lakes and the parks. It is even more obvious after having the opportunity to talk with the town’s City Manager.

A family of Sand Dune cranes in ront of the Davenport police station

Amy Arrington is passionate about the City of Davenport of which she has been the Manager for the past six years. “It is a special place… it has small town benefits and charm in that it is friendly and people know their neighbors… but it is close to everything.” One of its biggest assets is its perfect location between Orlando, Lakeland and Winter Haven. Davenport can honestly claim that it is equidistant between Disney World and Legoland” (27 minutes from each).

A Commission/Manager government has five elected officials as commissioners, including a mayor, which sets policies, procedures and goals for the city manager and the town’s 32 employees (including police and fire departments) to carry out.

Historically, the economy was agriculture based with pine trees being a major product as well as Holly Hill Fruit Products which is now closed. It still boasts such companies as the sand company, Cemex, and about 20 small individual businesses such as The Hotel which is a restaurant and flower shop converted from an historic home, Davenport Café which serves home style meals and is a “great place to see friends and members of the community”; True Blue Winery, which emerged from a family blueberry farm that still offers ‘u pick’ days. The owners started using the extra blueberries to make wine, opening the winery and a bistro. Marqueen’s Treasures, a store located in the historic district works with local merchants to hold ‘trash to treasure’ sales on the first Saturday of the month from October to April, where vendors set up booths to sell their goods ranging from crafts, treasures, antiques to local food products. A small hometown hardware store carries those hard-to-find items, and Gail’s Embroidery Shop sells embroidery accessories and also provides personalized monogramming.

Wilson Park just completed a 1.3 acre park renovation funded through the Community Development Block Grant. “It is serene and enjoyable, has a great lawn in and around the park and a wonderful 30-foot splash fountain to cool off in on a warm day.” Louis Matthews Parks has league baseball games for adults and youth, soccer fields and a dog friendly nature trail.

The City works hard to provide enjoyable events throughout the year for its residents and visitors. The annual Horse Creek Festival is a unique two-day event celebrating old and new Florida. It features artists who create works of art representing Florida, people who educate attendees about Florida, a Horse Creek Corral provided by the 4H Club with horses and other animals, and Florida authors performing storytelling. The community partners with the schools to display student art projects.

Amy Arrington, City Manager of Davenport in City Commission Chambers

The Highwaymen weekend in March features the 9 or 10 remaining Highwaymen artists at a dinner with an artist seated at each table. Each brings an original painting to be auctioned off. An art show has the artists’ works for sale. The Florida Highwaymen were a group of 26 African American landscape artists in Florida. Self-taught and self-mentoring, they created a body of work of over 200,000 landscape paintings, despite facing many racial and cultural barriers. They made a living selling them door-to-door to businesses and individuals throughout Florida from the mid-1950s through the 1980s and also peddled their work from the trunks of their cars.

A monthly Cruise In (second Saturday of every month except July and August) features classic cars mainly from the 50s and 60s.

Every other year, in November, the Quilt Group Historic Society sponsors a Quilt and Tea Festival. New quilts hang in different venues and vendors set up at a local tea room selling tea and other goodies.

In November, there is a Buffalo Soldiers Reenactment. Buffalo Soldiers was an African American regiment formed in 1866 and established by Congress as the first peace time black regiment following the Civil War. Poet/cowboy Hank Matson will be entertaining at this year’s event.

A safe trick or treating event hosted by the City attracts over 1200 people and features a Haunted Trailer by the 4H Club, free food and games, and a costume contest. A Hometown Christmas with antique cars, children’s activities, Santa Claus and an electric parade takes place the second Saturday in December.

Davenport City Hall Annex .. was the jail until the 1990s

City Manager Arrington believes that Davenport has “a bright future. There are signs that the economy is getting better. There is a rise in building permits in Davenport. With events and goals, we continue to be the best small town we can be and a great place to call home.” Learn more about the City of Davenport at www.mydavenport.org.

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