Laura Street was a culture icon in Plant City and thanks to the Improvement League the community will soon have the chance to take a walk down memory lane all while enjoying local cuisine.
After years of dreaming and planning, the long-awaited “A Taste of Laura Street” is coming to Plant City.
The Improvement League of Plant City created the food festival to highlight the historic character that set Laura Street apart as a cultural icon from the early 1900s through the 1980s. Restaurants, shops and minority-owned businesses flourished on Laura Street and the new event will pay homage to that.
“Part of the Bing House Museum’s mission is to highlight historic pieces of history in Plant City in regards to black history,” William Thomas Jr., president of the Improvement League, said. “Laura Street was known during that era to be a thriving business sector for African Americans during the segregation era. Primarily talking about business owners, entrepreneurship and creating an environment where businesses can thrive in a time where things weren’t necessarily equal. The community formed together to support each other in business ventures.”
Thomas said Plant City is currently in a time of immense growth and a way to ensure we protect our quality of life is to go back and highlight the wonderful qualities of the community, and shine light on things in history that were the foundation of where we are today.
The Bing Rooming House Museum has long sought out artifacts and keepsakes from Plant City’s past. There is a constantly flowing conversation surrounding Laura Street and the mecca that was inadvertently created along its path. The hope is through this event the community will be able to rekindle the embers left behind of the Laura Street legacy.
To this day, Thomas said everyone who has a tie to the immense history of that street claims they have the superior cooking skills thanks to the recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. This event gives them a chance to show off their talents and let Plant City taste first hand the legendary cuisine from yesteryear.
“People love to eat, people love food and the community,” Thomas said. “This is an event that’s all-inclusive. People of all backgrounds will be here to just enjoy a day of good food and interesting history.”
Up to 10 vendors will be present at the event cooking food ranging from classic southern meals to vibrant Hispanic cuisine. Other groups like the Arts Council of Plant City and the Plant City Family YMCA will also be on site. Johnson’s BBQ and Walmart joined the Improvement League in spearheading the event and the group also received a grant to purchase equipment like chairs, tables and tents.
The Bing House Museum will be open throughout the festival so anyone who wants a break from the weather or is curious about the extensive history on display within its walls will have the opportunity to spend time in one of Plant City’s hidden treasures. A live band will also be on location providing great music throughout the festival.
The Plant City Photo Archives & History Center is also working with the Improvement League for the event and anyone in the community that has photos of Laura Street in its prime are asked to allow the archives to scan a copy for its collection.
“There’s so much legend surrounding Laura Street that it’s hard to say for sure who these people were and what their story was,” Thomas said. “Obviously we want to be able to highlight the business owners that at one day were up and down Laura Street. This will help us hopefully get an accurate count of who they were and maybe even talk about the recipes that we know have been passed down. Who knows? Maybe one day we could even have an exhibit of those family recipes.”
The festival will grant attendees the chance to judge local cuisine, check out a traveling art gallery exhibit and dive into the historical ambiance of the former cultural center. City commissioners will also be competing for “Best Commissioner Dessert Dish” during the event. Any vendors interested in joining the festivities should call The Improvement League by Monday, Sept. 17 at 813-757-6760.
“This is just the first of hopefully many Taste of Laura Street events to come,” Thomas said. “Just going by the feedback we’ve got at this point, I’m expecting several hundred to attend.”