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The Woman, the Pageant, the Myth, the Legend - Sara de Soto
As the legend goes, the Indian brave Chichi-Okobee surrendered to Hernando de Soto's soldiers so he could be near de Soto's daughter, Sara, whom he loved from afar. Chichi-Okobee became ill to the point of death. Sara asked to care for him in his final hours, and her loving attention restored his health. Then Sara became ill. The camp physicians could not cure her.
De Soto granted Chichi-Okobee permission to bring his father's great medicine man to tend Sara. All treatments failed. After Sara died, the young brave requested that he be allowed to select her burial place and participate in the ceremony. With 100 attending warriors in full regalia, Chichi-Okobee directed that Sara's body be laid in the first of three canoes. He, her father and one guard accompanied her. The 100 warriors followed. When the canoes reached "the most beautiful, the most peaceful body of water, the Spaniard had ever beheld," Sara's body was lowered into the water. Chichi-Okobee moved to one of the warriors' canoes, gave a signal and the warriors destroyed their two canoes with tomahawks. Within minutes the canoes, warriors and leader rested on the bottom of the bay, a perpetual guard to Sara's grave. The bay was Sarasota Bay.
In March 1916, Sarasotans produced the first of many re-enactments of this tragic love story. The March 16 edition of The Sarasota Times forecast a "spectacular pageant, which would run from Tuesday to Saturday the following week. During the afternoon of opening day, Sarasotans dressed as Sara de Soto, Chichi-Okobee, Hernado de Soto, Spanish soldiers and Indian warriors. They staged a landing by the Spanish at the Belle Haven Inn dock, accompanied by a 21-gun salute and a reception by the Indians. Mayor Harry Higel presented a key to the city to Sara (played by his daughter, Genevieve).
A parade of the love-struck couple, de Soto's party, Indians, decorated cars and floats, band, minstrel club and fire department then proceeded up a flag-and bunting-decorated Main Street. A number of allegorical floats appeared during the festival, each one dramatizing a different scene from the "Legend of Sara de Soto."A variety of sports activities complemented the more social events. Sack, three-legged and foot races were at Palm and Main along with pie-eating and other contests and a greased pig catch Wednesday afternoon. Swimmers raced between the railroad dock, and city dock, and boaters sped along a course in the bay.
People danced in the street in front of the Watrous Hotel, on the corner of Palm and Main, in masquerade Wednesday night, before the coronation ball Thursday night and after the band concert Saturday night. This was under "scintillating colored bulbs," which had been strung along the street for the festival. A fireworks display provided a visual delight on closing night. In its enthusiastic review March 30th, the Sarasota Times announced that the following year's pageant would be worthy of national attention.
Other interesting stories of Sarasota's history, historical markers, historical designations, walking tours, and now a great video spotlight, can be found on the floridahistoryalive website. Click Here