This poster, designed by artist Christopher Still, is the official Viva Florida 500 poster. (Florida Humanities Council)
Columbia County Tourist Development Council is hosting the North Florida Marketing Expo at the Fairgrounds on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, preparing for tournaments at the Southside Recreation Complex and will join Viva Florida 500 in 2013.
The Marketing Expo is an opportunity for businesses to network and introduce products to a new market. It is for anyone who has a product to sell to the hospitality industry, the festivals and events industry and any small business.
Viva Florida 500 is a year-long state-wide event celebrating 500 years of Florida History, created by the Florida Humanities Council.
Next year is the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León's arrival on Florida's east coast. What makes this anniversary so unique is that Ponce de León's convoy of explorers was the first group of Europeans to document such a landing and give a name to Florida — La Florida.
Organizers are working on a calendar of events and planning local celebrations.
Meanwhile, tournament season is in full swing at the Southside Recreation Complex with two tournaments this weekend: A girls softball tournament with 28 teams, (26 are from out of town) and a Babe Ruth Tournament 40 or more teams.
At the monthly meeting Wednesday, TDC Executive Director Harvey Campbell said the Jacksonville Storm will bring a tournament to Lake City on July 13-15, with 90 to 96 teams. Campbell noted that all local hotels are full and he assisted teams in finding rooms in nearby areas. He is recommending hotels in Live Oak, White Springs, Suwannee Music Park and Camp Weed.
TDC board member Mike Collins said that last weekend "when Babe Ruth baseball had a tournament there were kids everywhere. It really amazes me to see how much they can do." Tracking the numbers of tournament visitors will help justify expenses for sports, he said.