There are not many places in the world where you can sit down at a picnic table under an old, moss-drenched oak tree, and meet a total stranger who’s genuine kindness captures your attention. But some folks would say that Brooksville is exactly that kind of place and I would have to agree.
I met such a stranger at Hernando’s 36th annual Heritage Festival, a warm family-welcoming event that happened to fall on one of the most beautiful weather days of the year.
It was my first time at this event, which took place at Brooksville’s Historic Train Depot and
I’ll be honest, I had no expectations. But I discovered something special, something that left me incredibly amazed at the passion of Hernando County folks who put in a lot of effort and energy into the heritage, history, and art of their hometown. They are very proud of where they live and it certainly shows.
The festival is also an educational experience for people of all ages. Folks were eager to show off fossils of extinct animals that used to roam the area. As well as folks eager to teach visitors about Hernando’s Native American history and artifacts among many other heritage skills and traits.
While devouring artistic dessert creations that looked too good to eat, I found myself strolling by each vendor with ease and interest. Especially the ones that showed exquisite creativity. They come together for a common pride in who they are and the community they represent. Each person has a story to tell and a talent that expresses their pride and unique joy.
Which brings me back to that stranger that I met as I sat down to eat those delicious chocolate strawberries.
He invited myself and my son to sit next to him as we walked by, looking for a place to enjoy our festival treats. This kind gentleman and I had never met before, but that didn’t stop him from being generous.
Without even exchanging names, we had each shared where we were from and what we do.
“I’m originally from Brooksville,” he said.
After living in other places during his life, he came back here, settling back into his hometown and becoming a grandfather. I learned that he and his wife are very happy that they returned.
Our conversation somehow traveled elsewhere and we began talking about how no one should ever let others convince them that they are not worthy of attaining their dreams. That life is about challenging oneself and the achievements that you make. Also, you should never allow anyone to convince you that you cannot be successful. Instead, you should channel that negative energy into passion and go after whatever goals you have for yourself. I admired his wisdom, as he told me about his own personal journey.
At this point, I still didn’t know this gentleman’s name. By now, I felt a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t asked. Especially now that I was this far into a meaningful conversation.
So, I asked “What’s your name?”
“John. My name is John Flook.”
Quickly, I learned that John was no stranger at all to Brooksville. John was a previous President of the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. He served for two terms: 1985-1986, 1986-1987. After 35 years, he continues to support his hometown.
The annual Hernando Heritage Festival is held by the Hernando Historical Museum Association. It’s an event that’s also supported by the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce.
It was a pleasure meeting John.
If you didn’t make it out to the festival, you certainly missed out on a lot of delicious treats and talents. But there’s always next year!