Relax and rewind in Micanopy
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.
Micanopy could be Brigadoon.
The town of Micanopy is between U.S. 441 and Interstate 75, 12 miles south of Gainesville.
Population is 600, according to the 2010 Census. At least 40 of the buildings in town are on the National Registry of Historic Places.
July Fourth Parade: 11 a.m., followed by a fish fry at the Historical Museum and fireworks at the ballpark at dusk
39th annual Fall Harvest Festival: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 26 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 27
Not that the town between Gainesville and Ocala vanishes at night like the Highlands hamlet in the Lerner and Loewe musical.
But it is a spot the calendar has managed to overlook, just like the fabled Scottish burg.
Micanopy may look familiar.
"Doc Hollywood" was filmed almost entirely here in 1990.
And "Cross Creek" about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' fabled home not far away also was partly filmed here.
Dating back to 1821 — the oldest inland U.S. town in Florida, residents contend — this moss-draped town south of Gainesville is less Hollywood and more wall-to-wall antiques and curio shops in quaint, mostly brick buildings dating back nearly 100 years.
Most are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
That's good, but it's also bad; it means a few structures, such as the 1890s-era, all-wood Thrasher Warehouse, home of the Micanopy Historical Society Museum, cannot be air conditioned or heated.
"It's hot right now," said co-director Lisa Hof. "It's also cold in the winter."
Sweating volunteers nodded in agreement.
The town's primary commerce is visitors, who spend hours ambling among the stacks of yesterday's treasures — especially on weekends when parking on shaded Cholokka Boulevard is at a premium.
Alan Height sings Florida folk on Saturdays, while the Porch Band picks bluegrass and country on Sundays on the porch of the Micanopy Café.
For those in Ocala or Gainesville, the journey to yesteryear is less than an hour away, either across Paynes Prairie or through equally charming McIntosh.
There IS air conditioning to be had in Micanopy, and certainly tons of shade.
Thus, it makes an enchanting day trip, a step back in time that will make Ocala and Gainesville seem like a bustling metropolis.
‘This is old Florida'
While the weekends can be crowded with visitors, weekdays are another matter.
"On weekdays, you can count the visitors on the fingers of one hand," said Judy Lindberg at the Shady Oaks Gallery & Stained Glass Studio. "It's a great place to do nothing and then rest up afterward."
Yet come they do, from all over Florida, from all over the United States, even the world.
"We've had people from Canada," noted Emily Piazza, co-founder of the Mosswood Bakehouse and Farm Store six years ago. "They get off I-75. They didn't know they were coming to see us, but they get off the interstate and stop in."
To extend their stay, there's the Herlong Mansion — a sprawling antebellum home dating back to 1845 that's also a highly rated bed-and-breakfast inn.
"Traditionally, visitors come from the coasts — Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Pete — but we get a lot of Europeans as well," said Herlong owner Carolyn Stevens-West. "They prefer the quiet of North Florida, the gentle, relaxing way of life here."
"People are coming here on discovery trips," Hof said. "They want to see what the state was like before it developed. This is old Florida, big oaks, big magnolia trees, a summer kind of slow."
Named for Seminole Indians' Chief Micanopy — "an Indian name meaning ‘chief of chiefs,' " Hof said — there was a time when the town was larger than Gainesville.
But in the 1960s, U.S. 441 was rerouted around its downtown, and Micanopy went to sleep.
"It seems like any time there was something about to happen that would cause growth, something happened to stop it," said Chris Rother of The Garage Antiques, a building that has been in the same family since the early 1900s. "That's what I like about here."
Frank and Marie Peters drove from Oregon to visit friends Gordon and Pat Swenson, who live in Melrose.
"They like historic places," Pat said. "They are the type that likes to go see history."
"We've seen the Tower of London, we've seen the Eiffel Tower, now we've seen Micanopy," interrupted Marie.
Sitting around a table at the Coffee 'n Cream at the Micanopy Café last week, the four friends shared a laugh.
"We've been here before and know what the town's like," Gordon said. "And we decided it's a great way to spend a day."
"And they didn't know what else to do with us," Marie quipped.
‘No one's ever grumpy'
The Coffee 'n Cream is owned by arguably the town's most famous family — on the rodeo circuit, anyway: the Harris family.
Or as Cliff Harris is known, Hollywood Harris, rodeo clown.
His son, Brinson, is following in dad's footsteps as rodeo clown Boogerhead, though he now goes by Brinson James The Entertainer.
As rodeo clowns are often on the road, the café is run by Lisa Abbott, who was born in Micanopy but raised elsewhere.
"Cliff hired me personally from the place I was working in Gainesville to work here," she said.
The shop recently added dinner on Friday nights.
"It's the only place in downtown Micanopy that serves dinner," Abbott said. "I love it here; it's like going back in time."
"And no one's ever grumpy," added co-worker Abby Schee, who confided that she's Boogerhead's girlfriend.
Across the street, Will and Terri Eaton of Sarasota paused outside the Stagecoach Shop during their third visit to Micanopy.
"We like shopping the antiques here," Will said last week. "It's like old Florida."
"It's laid-back and relaxing," Terri added, "a great way to escape from Sarasota."
A few steps away was Abigail, a fluffy tuxedo cat born six years ago in the Delectable Collectables shop; she lounged atop a case full of cameos.
"I have 1,500 antique cameos, all original," said Monica Fowler, owner of the shop since 1980.
She started visiting a friend in the town in Micanopy's artist-colony days in the late '70s and stayed.
"It's a wonderful place to spend the day," she said. "I think Micanopy's just so unique because it's so original."
Most of "the village," as some folks call it, is an easy walk.
But even that is no longer necessary.
For $10, a visitor can hop an electric three-wheeled scooter for a personal 40-minute tour of the town — escorted by none other than Hollywood Harris himself.
"I broke my leg two years ago; I couldn't work and needed something else to do," Harris said.
So he started selling the scooters.
As that petered out, he found eight more still unsold in the garage.
"I thought, why not?" he added.
The tour includes the old cemetery, picturesque side streets where gaily painted Cracker houses peek out from ancient foliage, down to town hall and back.
"I've only been doing this about two weeks; we'll see how it goes," he said. "It's such a charming place."
Contact Rick Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 867-4154.
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