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“Bigger and better”: 20th annual Hibiscus Festival kicks off in Punta Gorda

The festival celebrates the role the Hibiscus has played in the city's culture.
Posted at 4:57 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 16:57:37-04

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — The 20th annual Hibiscus Festival has kicked off in downtown Punta Gorda’s Gilchrist Park.

The festival is free to get in and is open Friday until 10 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The festival celebrates a long history the City of Punta Gorda has with the hibiscus plant, dating back to the 1920’s.

According to the Charlotte County Historical Society, Punta Gorda proclaimed itself as “The City of Hibiscus” in 1926, and purchased over 2000 of the plants to be displayed in the city.

Then, local Harry ‘Pete’ Goulding began to grow and hybridize the flower at his Punta Gorda home. For over 60 years Goulding earned international recognition for his plants and was nicknamed “King Harry”.

“He was self taught, he hybridized over 500 varieties and was internationally known as King Harry,” said Frank Desguin, President of the Charlotte County Historical Society. “His blooms were named best in the world five times, he was something else.”

Hibiscus
Hibiscus flower at the Hibiscus Festival in Punta Gorda.

Now, the historical society organizes the Hibiscus Festival to honor the role hibiscus has played in the city’s culture. The festival brings together area-nurseries to display various plants, live music, food and craft vendors.

“It’s bigger and better,” said Teresa Desguin, a volunteer with the historical society. “Lots of very unique plants, some very interesting food vendors and music all through the festival. We are really excited about it.”