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The Emerson Center Unveils free Florida Humanities Series for 2018-19

For the twelfth consecutive season, Vero Beach’s Emerson Center is serving up an exceptional line-up of free programs for neighbors throughout the Treasure Coast. The 2018-19 Florida Humanities Series promises to be among “our most exciting seasons ever.” The programs get underway on October 11 with a picturesque and informative look at more than 50 lighthouses that have stood as silent sentinels along Florida’s 1,300 miles of coast. From St. Augustine’s 16th century signal towers to the inland lighthouse at Lake George, this state has a rich tradition of light stations guiding navigators to safe harbors — most of the time. Brendan Burke, Associate Director of Archaeology with the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, will lead this “tour,” presenting animated stories, stunning photographs, and historical anecdotes describing our many efforts to illuminate Florida’s coast. On November 8, David Schmidt, curator of the Florida Civilian Conservation Corps Museum at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, will recount the many building and construction projects that came to life during the terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration. In his informative presentation, Schmidt will explain how, even today, buildings built by this massive public works effort continue to serve Floridians. In addition, he will discuss the undocumented WPA projects that are just now being identified and re-discovered. Back by popular demand and just in time for the holidays, The Emerson Center's stage will host the Fort Pierce Jazz and Blues Society on December 13. These acclaimed musicians, distinguished artists who have played with some of the major jazz and blues groups around the world, will help listeners rock their way into Christmas with a swinging performance of seasonal favorites designed to keep toes tapping until Santa clears the scene. Guests are urged to stay after this performance for complimentary holiday refreshments. Just in time for January's total lunar eclipse, Jon Bell, the director of the Indian River State College's Hallstrom Planetarium, will offer a January 10 program entitled "Under the Florida Skies." Professor Bell is host of a daily radio series called “Skywatch” that appears on WQCS-FM and an avid astronomer whose passion enlivens audiences whenever he speaks. Bell will reveal secrets of the heavens which are uniquely visible to Floridians, explain how Florida's astronomical history has impacted the people of the Sunshine State, and give the audience insider's tips on how to best observe the lunar eclipse and other upcoming astronomical phenomena. On February 7, The Emerson Center will welcome Richard (Rick) Kaiser, U.S. Navy SEAL (Ret.) and recipient of the Silver Star for Valor (Battle of Mogadishu - "Black Hawk Down") to its stage. As Director of the Navy SEAL Museum on North Hutchinson Island, Master Chief Kaiser relates stories of the incredible role Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams have played in some of the most challenging military assignments ever undertaken on behalf of our nation. On the 11th anniversary of receiving its National Museum designation, Kaiser will recount how former UDT Frogmen from World War II worked to procure the then-defunct Ft. Pierce Treasure Museum to create this military tribute. Finally, on March 14, Peggy Macdonald, executive director of Gainesville’s Matheson History Museum, will reveal the little-known stories of Florida’s “first ladies.” The state’s gubernatorial wives have frequently been at the center of some of Florida’s most interesting lore, and Dr. Macdonald will deal with these tales — resolving the controversy over the identity of Florida’s “first” first lady, explaining the challenges endured by Florida’s Civil War first lady, and focusing on the first ladies who have left their mark on Florida’s environment, education systems, and more. A thespian who became a historian, MacDonald brings history to life with animated storytelling backed by vintage photographs and historic postcards. This Florida Humanities Series is sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council ( with funds from the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs. Additional support from Marine Bank and Trust ensures that these important programs remain open to the public and free of charge. Seating is offered on a first-come-first-served basis for all Humanities programs. The Emerson Center is handicap accessible and is conveniently located at 1590 27th Avenue, on the SE corner of 16th Street and 27th Avenue in Vero Beach. For more information, contact the Emerson Center Box Office at 772-778-5249 or visit the website at

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