Tour gives insight on eccentric Vero Beach pioneer
By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- Sometimes, the most interesting and least explored historic areas are the ones in your own backyard.
This summer, the Heritage Center of Vero Beach is teaming up with a local touring company to offer a special tour of Vero Beach focusing on the impact of a Vero Beach pioneer whose name lives on today in his family.
The "See What Waldo Built" tour has been organized by Day Trippin' with Patti and Vicky and will benefit the nonprofit Heritage Center and Indian River Citrus Museum by showing and sharing with tour participants some of the unique, interesting and historic buildings built by Waldo Sexton and stories about his life in Vero Beach.
Rebecca Rickey, executive director of The Heritage Center, said the tour is scheduled for July 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the cost per person is $55 and includes snacks, bottled water, dessert, and transportation around town to the various tour stops.
"The tour will start at the Heritage Center and the Indian River Citrus Museum and I will give a tour of it. Lots of people may know about Waldo Sexton from the Driftwood Inn, but there are a lot of other places he built that people may not know about," Ms. Rickey said.
Mr. Sexton first came to the Vero Beach area in 1914 on business, before Vero Beach was the official name of the town. He decided to stay and work for Indian River Farms Company.
Three years later, he was an independent citrus farmer, having planted 10,000 orange trees and was well on his way to becoming a civic leader in the community.
Mr. Sexton is recognized as helping to organize the Indian River Citrus League, as one of the first exhibitors of Indian River Citrus at the Tampa State Fair and as having developed three varieties of avocados, one of which bears his name.
Establishing McKee Jungle Garden, the Driftwood Inn and adjacent restaurant are just a few of his other business ventures, said Vicky Stein, one of the tour organizers.
"It's a great way for people to see Vero Beach from a new perspective," Ms. Stein said.
"There will be a genealogist and a historian onboard, Pam Cooper and Janie Gould, and they will be giving lectures and anecdotes onboard the bus," she said.
One of the first tour stops will be a visit to the Szechuan Palace for a cup of tea, spring roll and a tour of the building.
"The Szechuan Palace is a place that opened as a local bar, a hangout spot. If you go inside of it, you will see it is nothing like any Chinese restaurant you've ever been inside. It is all stamped by Waldo," Ms. Stein said.
When it comes to decorating tastes, Mr. Sexton was known for collecting driftwood, bells, iron pieces and antiques to outfit the buildings and businesses he built.
"He had a very different way of looking at things. It's very artsy," Ms. Stein said.
Some of the other tour stops will include a walk-through of the Driftwood Inn, a stop at the Oslo Packinghouse, the Patio Restaurant, the site of Waldo's Mountain and a tour of the Hall of Giants at McKee Botanical Garden.
The group will take a lunch break at the Ocean Grill Restaurant. The cost for lunch is not included in the tour ticket price.
Ms. Stein said should the tour featuring Mr. Sexton prove popular, other historic tours will be organized and offered for other local areas, including Gifford and Fellsmere.
For more information about the tour, call Ms. Rickey at (772) 770-2263. Tickets may be purchased at the Indian River Citrus Museum located at the Heritage Center in downtown Vero Beach.
For more information about Day Trippin' with Patti & Vicky, call (772) 216-1798.