Lake Placid, the Caladium Capital of the World, will hold its 21st Annual Caladium Festival this Friday and Saturday. The event will feature musical performances, arts and crafts displays, a classic car show, and of course lots of beautiful caladiums.
Excerpts from Visiting Small Town Florida, Third Edition: Ninety-five percent of all caladiums sold commercially around the world are grown right here in surrounding Highlands County. A temperate climate and an abundance of boggy muck-soil near the lakes make this area ideal for growing caladiums, though they’re not native to Florida. Caladiums originated in the Amazon basin and were brought to the United States for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. They were first grown commercially in Apopka in the 1920s. Occasional winter freezing temperatures forced the industry to move further south in the 1930s, eventually finding the perfect home in Lake Placid and Highlands County. August and September marks the peak of the caladium season.
And there is more to Lake Placid than just caladiums. It is also one of the most famous mural cities in the country. In 1992 a group of local artists and art-patrons came up with the idea of making Lake Placid a mural town. There are currently forty-four larger-than-life murals painted on walls throughout Lake Placid. Artist Tom Freeman’s Tea at Southwinds, on the side of the Caladium Arts and Crafts Co-op building, is pictured below. It depicts three elegantly-dressed ladies enjoying an outdoor patio, at the former Lakeside Inn, in the 1940’s. They represent the three ladies who founded the Caladium Arts and Crafts Co-op: Harriet Porter, Sue Ellen Robinson, and Carol Mills. The Co-op (at Interlake Boulevard and Pine Street) is a ten-thousand-square-foot store, gallery, and showcase for the work of its two-hundred-plus members, all Highlands County artists and craftspeople.