Antique-hound-haven Havana (they pronounce it Hay’-vana), fifteen miles north of Tallahassee, will host their Havana Day Festival on May 7th in celebration of the town’s heritage, and to benefit Community Cares Outreach of Havana. The event begins at 9:00 AM and will feature lots of children’s and family activities, arts and crafts (and of course antiques), as well as a concert by folk/country artist Billy Dean at 6:00 that evening.
Back at the turn of the century this region was known for growing Cuban cigar tobacco. Farmers in and around Havana specialized in growing “shade tobacco,” the leaves of which cigar makers used as the outer wrapper of cigars. It was called shade tobacco because they grew it under cheesecloth tarps, which let just the right amount of light through in order to grow perfect leaves. The growing and subsequent curing/drying was a very specialized and precise process. But in the mid-1960s, under a foreign goodwill program sponsored by the United States government, the north Florida shade tobacco growers’ special farming and harvesting techniques were taught to workers in several South American countries. Within just a couple of years, these countries were producing shade tobacco at a significantly lower cost, and the growing industry around Havana evaporated. It turned into a virtual ghost town, until the mid-1980’s when antique shop owners bought several downtown buildings, and relocated their shops there.