Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa

Commemorate the 50th anniversary of our visit by a sitting president.

click to enlarge Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa
Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa

click to enlarge Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa
Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa

How many times have you driven down Kennedy Boulevard without thinking about how it got its name?

Kennedy's motorcade rode down the east-west corridor originally known as Lafayette Street, and later Grand Central Avenue, just four days before the popular world leader made his fateful trip to Dallas in 1963, he visited Tampa and traveled down Tampa's popular road and through Hyde Park to the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory. During his visit he discussed economic development and toured Tampa International Airport to endorse the recent designation of the American Airlines hub. Mayor Dick Greco and late U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons were among the local luminaries in attendance.

click to enlarge Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa
Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's visit to Tampa

Shortly after JFK's untimely demise, a group of Tampa community activists commissioned a life-sized statue of JFK to face what is now Kennedy Boulevard. The piece was shipped to the United States in mid-1964 and erected at a site at Plant Park on the University of Tampa campus at Hyde Park Street, where the statue faces what's now Kennedy Boulevard.

The Tampa Bay History Century commemorates the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination and his visit to the TB area with its newest attraction, JFK in Tampa: The Exhibition.

The extensive look at the late president’s 1963 stump has rare film footage of Kennedy in Tampa, the podium he used while delivering a speech at the International Inn, as well as photographs, home movies, newspaper headlines, and oral histories from Tampa residents who saw and visited with the President.

The exhibition also includes uniforms and badges from the Tampa Police Museum and notes from the Secret Service “Kennedy Detail” which were used while escorting the President around the city.

The exhibition coincides with Lynn Marvin Dingfelder’s documentary JFK in Tampa: The 50th Anniversary, which premiered at the Tampa Theatre and will be rebroadcast on WUSF-Ch. 16 tonight at 8 p.m. and Fri., Nov. 22, at 4 p.m.

A Florida Conversations Panel Discussion and Public Screening will feature Dingfelder and some of the people in her documentary speak on Thurs., Nov. 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Tampa Bay History Center, followed by a public screening of JFK in Tampa: The 50th Anniversary at the Tampa Bay History Center. Free.

Or attend a JFK Historic Marker Unveiling, Dedication & Press Conference at Franklin Street and Kennedy Boulevard, where public officials will honor President Kennedy with a new historical marker. Noon, Fri., Nov. 22.

We should focus less on the tragedy and scandals, says Tampa resident Michael Fluno, and remember the joy that underscored JFK’s visit, and Tampa’s place in his legacy. To commemorate, Fluno and a group of friends — Guido Maniscalco, Stephen Gately and Carrie Henriquez — are campaigning for a proclamation to name Nov. 18 John F. Kennedy Day in Tampa. The group will be at the corner of Twiggs and Franklin streets on Mon., Nov. 18, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of JFK’s visit there and host an informal meet-and-greet from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Fluno, 38, says his fascination with the JFK visit began with a historic photo taken by Tony Zappone, a Tampa photographer who snapped a famous shot of the president in his motorcade that offers an evocative portrait of a bustling downtown.

For more information on the Tampa Bay History Center's exhibition, call 813-228-0097 or visit TampaBayHistoryCenter.org.

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