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15 questions on Highlands County


Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 05:32 PM

How well do you know Highlands County? We have compiled a list of 15 trivia questions on local aspects that make our county unique. Go give it a shot and have fun!

Q: Sebring's famous "pink elephant" Harder Hall was named after which person or people?

A: Harder Hall was named for its developers, Lewis F. Harder and Vincent Hall, both of West Palm Beach.

Q: You have seen Highlands County's citrus groves everywhere. Does the citrus end up in the produce aisle or the juice freezers of grocery stores?

A: Most of the county's citrus crop is used to make orange juice. Approximately 13 percent of the OJ sold in North America is believed to originate in Highlands County. Citrus is grown on 65,000 acres and Highlands County is Florida's third-largest total citrus producer.

Q: Highlands County is dotted by lakes. How many named lakes do we have?

A: The county has more than 110 named lakes, although a few are relatively small. Mike McMillian, the county's assistant lakes manager, said what is also remarkable about some of these tiny lakes is that they are quite deep. The lakes form 78 square miles of water in the county, or a little more than 7 percent of the total area.

Q: Highlands County has the oldest recorded lake in North America? Which one is it?

A: That distinction belongs to Avon Park's Lake Tulane, which is believed to more than 60,000 years old. That would mean the lake was around well before the first humans came to North America. The lake is 70 feet deep. It is believed that beneath the lake's floor are layers of sediment that reach down 60 more feet. The U.S. Geological Survey, which has studied age-dated sediment samples in the lake, describes it as a deep sinkhole with an age "in excess of 50,000 years."

Q: One of Highlands County's museums has a dress that once belonged to a famous First Lady. Hint: It has a really tiny waist!

A: That would be the Lake Placid Depot Museum, which has on display a dress that once belonged to Jackie Kennedy.

Q: Avon Park takes credit for one accidental food invention. Which one was that?

A: Brown 'n serve rolls were invented in Avon Park in 1949 by ex-GI Joe Gregor, a volunteer firefighter and baker.

The story, according to the Avon Park's Depot Museum, is that Gregor couldn't please his customers who wanted their rolls piping hot. "One day he mixed a batch of dough, shaped it into rolls and put them in a proofing box until they rose." He lit the oven a little later than usual and it failed to preheat properly. Suddenly, the town's fire siren wailed.

"Joe tore off his apron, ran for the door and then remembered the rolls. Wheeling around, he turned off the burners, opened the oven door and pulled out the tray and... 'My gosh,' he shouted 'This is what I've been looking for!'

"What happened was the fire siren had interrupted the baking cycle at the right moment: General Mills Corp. heard about the rolls. Joe accepted their offer of $40,000 for the roll-making process," the museum adds.

Q: Who was Sebring's first black city councilor?

A: Mary Toney, who died in 2010 at age 76, served for almost 11 years starting in 1982. She was the first black member of the city council.

Q: Which year was the 12 Hours of Sebring canceled and why?

A: In 1974 there was no race but the fans came anyway. The "energy crisis" created fuel shortages that forced the race to be canceled.

"But there was a Sebring '74," states the Sebring Raceway website. "Hundreds of fans showed up anyway at the Sebring Airport circuit. Maybe thousands. It was a spontaneous party, funeral, tribute… whatever you want to call it. Sebring fans had to be there, race or not…"

Q: What is the Lake Wales Ridge and what is special about it?

A: The Ridge runs for about 150 miles south to north in Central Florida. The greater part is in Highlands County and Polk County.

More than a million years ago, modern-day Florida was almost entirely covered by water, except the islands of sand, now known as "Florida's ancient islands." Of these elevated ridges of the Florida peninsula, the Lake Wales Ridge, standing 295 feet above sea level, is the oldest.

That also allowed animals to migrate. Here you'll find flora and fauna that isn't found anywhere else in Florida. The ecosystem now harbors one of the highest concentrations of imperiled species in the United States, including 29 species classified as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Archbold Biological Station.

Q: Before Highlands County became Highlands, which county was it a part of?

A: Neighboring DeSoto County. Highlands County was created on April 23, 1921, when it was separated from DeSoto. It was named for its terrain.

Q: Who is Highlands County's largest private sector employer?

A: Florida Hospital, according to the Highlands County Economic Development Commission. The hospital employs 1,500 people. Next is Walmart at 796 workers and Agero, with a payroll of 600 employees.

Q: Lake Placid has a lot of murals so exactly how many?

A: 44.

Q: Who once owned much of the land surrounding Fisheating Creek?

A: Much of the land surrounding Fisheating Creek was once owned by the Lykes Bros Inc., now the largest producer of cattle and the biggest meat packer in Florida.

The Lykes family prohibited development along the creek and ran a campground and a canoeing concession at Palmdale. In 1989, they closed the creek to the public, igniting a 10-year legal battle, according to the FFWC.

On Feb. 19, 1998, Circuit Court Judge Charles Carlton ruled that Fisheating Creek belonged to the people of Florida, although the ordinary high water line, which is used to determine the boundary between public lands and private lands, had not been determined. Lykes Bros. appealed the decision. To put an end to litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement calling for the state to purchase a corridor along the creek. These 18,272 acres became Fisheating Creek WMA.

Q: Florida scrub-jays are not the only birds that eat acorns, but how many acorns can these birds hoard a year?

A: From August to November scrub-jays store thousands of scrub oak acorns, from 6,000 to 8,000 acorns per year. They eat them in the winter.

Q: How many times has South Florida State College changed its name?

A: Three times. From South Florida Junior College to South Florida Community College to South Florida State College.

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