Oviedo’s most iconic calendar is getting a new look and some new life as The Oviedo Preservation Project hands off its signature photo calendar to the Chamber of Commerce.
Almost 14 years ago, when they decided to produce a free calendar showcasing photos of historically significant buildings in town, members of The Oviedo Preservation Project (TOPP) kept their expectations in check. The feeling was that, in this family-centered, booming community, enthusiasm for the past was muted, at most. TOPP leader Megan Sladek figured Oviedo was all about the future. To minimize the risk, only 1,000 copies of the inaugural calendar were printed.
“They were gone in a heartbeat,” Megan recalls.
Since then, scores of residents have competed for the chance to have their photos featured in the annual calendar. The pictures – always in black and white – captured the rich history of Oviedo, Geneva, Slavia, and Chuluota in their houses, churches, feed stores, sawmills, and other remnants of a time long past. There was only one rule: the structures photographed must be at least 50 years old.
Today, the calendar is a Seminole County fixture and a must-have for anyone who appreciates history, beauty, and, well, the beauty of history.
And this beacon of a bygone era is about to begin a whole new era of its own.
TOPP is passing responsibility for the calendar to the Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce, beginning with the 2020 calendar. This will allow the preservationists to focus on other endeavors and give the calendar new life.
Under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, the calendar will undergo a shift in tone and appearance. It will tell the history of the Oviedo and Winter Springs communities through the lens of local businesses and other entities.
“We’re changing it up a little,” says Steve Fulmer, chair of the Chamber’s Executive Committee.
Each month in the calendar will be devoted to a business sponsor, with a black-and-white photo from its early days and a more recent color photo reflecting the present and future. The pages will also include a brief description of each business and its history.
“We will let our business sponsors each month tell the story of where they came from and where they are now,” says Steve, who is also a vice president at Citizens Bank of Florida.
Obviously, with the new direction, the rule that a photo subject must be 50 years old will go away, but that’s not to say the calendar will lose its sense of history.
The first choice for the 2020 calendar was an obvious one – Citizens Bank itself.
The bank opened in 1946 when celery, citrus, and cattle ruled east Seminole County. Over the years, the bank would give Oviedo residents their first elevator ride and their first glance at an odd new drive-through contraption called the pneumatic tube. The history of the bank and the history of the area are very much entwined.
One striking new feature in the new calendar will be a cover photo that fades from black-and-white into color,
reflecting a shift from the past to the present, says Halie DeLoach, director of sponsorship and events at the Chamber.
That cover photo will be revealed close to the calendar printing time, she says.
Meanwhile, TOPP will refocus on its other endeavors, such as the popular interactive Cemetery Tour around Halloween and the group’s efforts to create markers for the Oviedo area’s many historic sites.
“Those are places,” Megan says, “where no one can move the mission forward but us.”
A 50-Year Retrospect
Steve has nothing but praise for all the work that TOPP has done with the calendar over the years.
“It was a special project that really lived up to their mission,” he says.
The debut calendar was such a modest affair that a single professional photographer provided all 12 pictures.
“Our mission was to trick people to learn about history long enough that it became fun,” Megan says.
The inaugural calendars were distributed for free at Citizens Bank and other local businesses. They were such a success that, in the following year, the group decided to begin soliciting photos from the public and sold ads to turned the calendar into a TOPP fundraiser.
Megan says the calendar was the perfect expression of TOPP’s mission. It quite literally preserved local history, much of which has been or will be razed in the path of new development. Turning the calendar over to the Chamber is a bittersweet sign of its success.
“That has been our hope all along – to make history be so in-demand and second nature that other groups wanted to incorporate it,” says Megan.
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