There were fireworks, live music and a “Ms. Longboat Key: 50 and Fabulous” contest. And that was just the first day of the weeklong celebration of the town’s 50th anniversary. The festivities continued with a celebratory tennis tournament, festival, a performance by the Fabulous Wallendas and a town play, “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” by Claudia Fuller.
This year, on Nov. 14, the town turns 55. But this time around, the celebration will be smaller. The town will keep the milestone low-key, and could issue a proclamation commemorating the occasion.
The proclamation will celebrate the events of Nov. 14, 1955. On that day, more than 200 people gathered in the fire station at the north end of the island. Guy Paschal, an engineer and chemist who invented one of the first room air conditioners, called the meeting to order.
Three years earlier, Paschal, who moved in 1949 to Longboat Key, had begun pushing for incorporation. He didn’t understand why some residents opposed the idea. At the time, residents paid taxes to both Manatee and Sarasota counties but had little say in what happened on the island.
But the opposition argued that incorporation would raise property taxes, making Longboat Key too expensive for many of its residents. Some residents worried that the debate would be so intense that a fight would break out before a vote could occur.
In the end, 199 votes were cast, 186 of which were for incorporation and 13 of which were against it.
Back then, Longboat Key was home to just 250 registered voters; 55 years later, the town has more than 6,300.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].