With a quarter of a century under its belt, the Walton County Heritage Museum is celebrating with an all-day festival September 21.
"It's a sense of community," said Sharon Grenet, one of the Walton County Heritage Association's board of directors.
Located in the restored L&N Train Depot, the museum houses artifacts, photos and stories from DeFuniak Springs' past. Inside the museum, you can learn about Fred DeFuniak and George Walton Jr., the namesakes of the city and county respectively or learn more about Rubye Burton, the first woman oil distributor in the United States who lived in DeFuniak Springs until she died in 2001 at the age of 101. Or take a peek at pieces of Walton County's history. The museum is also home to the inaugural ball gown of Alice Catts, the wife of 22nd Florida governor, Sidney.
Such rich history should be celebrated, Grenet said.
"It's important to know where you came from," she sad. "Knowing your area's history makes you feel like you're a part of something."
Wayne Sconiers has been a major proponent in preserving and recording Walton County's history. After retiring from the Navy, Sconiers moved back to DeFuniak Springs, his hometown, and began delving into local history. He is currently vice president and treasurer of Walton County Heritage Association as well president of Genealogy Society.
"It all started with me researching my genealogy from my family about six years ago," he said.
Eventually one branch in the family would lead to another and another until Sconiers founded Walton County's Genealogy Society.
"Our goal is to preserve the heritage of families of Walton County by gathering research and materials and making it available to the public," he said.
With a database of 52,000 people, you can inquire about your own heritage and see who you're related to. You might be surprised at what you find.
"Someone in your family could've been in the War of 1812 or the Civil War," Sconiers said.
That kind of inquisitive nature, as well as community support, is what has kept the heritage museum running for 25 years.
The festival will not only celebrate the museum, but also the community. The local Girl Scouts will receive their heritage badges, the DeFuniak Springs Friends of the Library will celebrate their 10th anniversary in conjunction with the festival and a spaghetti dinner will take place at First United Methodist Church. You can also catch live music from Sharon Johnson & the Moses Band, Ed Tanza, Karis Opal Murley, Meredith Lee, Absolute Dance, and Curtis Parker, tour an old train caboose, view classic cars and let the little ones drain their energy at the Kid's Fun Zone.
Once the celebration is over, don't forget to regularly visit the museum. While the admission is free, the information and artifacts are priceless.
"History is what we're all about," Sconiers said. "It defines us."
Want to go? The Walton County 25th Anniversary Heritage Festival will begin at 9 a.m. Sept. 21 at the museum, located at 1140 Circle Dr., DeFuniak Springs, with events spanning the entire day including live music, more than 40 food vendors and children's games. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.waltoncountyheritage.org.