By Erika Webb
No one was fighting city hall on Nov. 17 as Volusia County's largest city celebrated 50 years as a community.
Deltona residents hopped and bopped, blew bubbles and hula hooped the day away at the city's birthday bash.
They lined up inside the commission chambers to view photographs from the early days, of the area and its inhabitants.
The opening ceremony began with the Deltona Fire Department Honor Guard Posting the Colors, followed by Pastor J.C. Steele, from Deltona Christian Church, delivering the invocation.
Pastor Steele expressed thanks for a "spirit of tolerance which unites this diverse community."
Mayor John Masiarczyk spoke to residents, elected officials and dignitaries about Deltona's developers, the Mackle Brothers. He read a detailed letter from Frank Mackle III, who wrote that he was unable to attend due to health and other reasons.
The mayor spoke, as though sitting around in his living room with friends. He looked back at the decade when the Mackle Brothers began promoting their first "non-coastal frontier."
In 1962, three weeks before the scheduled opening of Deltona Lakes, John F. Kennedy went public with the news of the Cuban Missile Crisis. America held its breath. Mackle family members held their breath when developer Robert Mackle's daughter Barbara Jane Mackle was kidnapped in 1968, as Deltona was being promoted as a community. Ms. Mackle survived and went on to write a book, turned movie -- "83 Hours 'Til Dawn" -- about the experience.
"There's a lot of history. Get me going and I'll never shut up," Mayor Masiarczyk said.
Then he served cupcakes.
Vice Mayor Zenaida Denizac said she's lived in Deltona for 26 years.
"It's not what I love about Deltona," she said. "I am in love with Deltona!"
When Vice Mayor Denizac's children were four, five and six, the family moved to the United States from Puerto Rico. Her eldest daughter, Yaitza, was born with cerebral palsy.
"I knew I had to find better health services and opportunities for her," Vice Mayor Denizac said.
But it wasn't long after arriving before the family was homeless and hungry in Orlando, "eating bread and butter and sharing a 7-11 Slurpee," she said.
The family went to church and met a couple from Deltona who invited them into their home.
Once they got on their feet they weren't about to leave the community that embraced them.
"Little did I know, I'd end up representing the district," Vice Mayor Denizac said. "When I sit at the dais and look out into the room, I see myself in just about everyone."
The vice mayor, who teaches at Pine Ridge High School, calls Deltona the city that saw her grow as a person and saw her kids grow into adults.
She said the city is a witness to the American philosophy of hard work and persistence resulting in success.
And she said it is her privilege to give back.
Yaitza was the inspiration behind Thornby Park's Inspiration Playground, which accommodates children with and without disabilities, offering wheelchair ramps, raised sandboxes and other special features for accessibility.
"I'm grateful to the citizens of Deltona who welcomed my family," Vice Mayor Denizac said.
Liz Meyer landed in Deltona nearly five years ago. The lively transplant from New York said she can't figure out why she didn't get here sooner.
"Will I go back there? Just for visits," she said.
"The weather, the people, the activity and the list goes on and on," she said describing what she likes best about her new home.
Ms. Meyer's daughter-in-law, Angela Meyer, arrived in Deltona in 2000 from Brazil. She works as a records clerk for the city.
"It has that hometown community feeling," she said. "Our neighbors make us have fun and wherever you go you see someone you know, especially her," she said pointing at her mother in law. "She knows everyone."
Ashley Dawson, 16, wanted to know why her gum's bubbles were substandard.
"It's Bazooka and that was the gum at the time," her grandmother, Ms. Liz Meyer, explained.
Highlights from a timeline inside the commission chambers tell a short-version story of Deltona, the city, incorporated in 1995:
A city commission and mayor were sworn in and the government took ownership of all public lands. Deltona's Fire Rescue Department was established; its workers were the first city employees.
Deltona's was the first fire department in Volusia County to offer advanced life support services.
In 1996 a staff was hired to manage the $18 million budget adopted by the commissioners.
A community previously plagued by flooding got some relief in 1997 when the Deltona Public Works Department opened and began to refurbish neglected drainage systems, roads and public lands.
The long-overdue maintenance kept the vast majority of the city from flooding.
In 2002, the timeline showed, the $8 million dollar Deltona City Hall building opened on Providence Blvd., with "not a single cent of debt incurred."
A few women wore poodle skirts. A few hair-slicked men wore tight-fitting T-shirts -- sleeves rolled up -- and jeans. Many dressed in regular garb.
Strains of classics like Unchained Melody issued from the DJ booth, and people began to line up for hot dogs and drinks near the smoker outside. Soon there would be a courtyard sock hop and contests. A dinner was planned for later in the evening at the Deltona Community Center.
Sharon Reichardt has worked for the City of Deltona for six years. She said she moved to Deltona from Philadelphia in 1989 after her dad retired and offered her young family a chance to start over in a warmer climate.
"My parents already lived here. We lived with them for a while and then built our own home," she said. "Deltona is homey. It's not that hustle and bustle like you did in the city. It's more a country style of living."
What started out as a private retirement community, featuring affordably-priced lakefront property, has over half a century evolved into a mingling of young and old, singles and families, working and retired -- all varied in culture and ethnic origin. As the city's population approaches 90,000, Deltona continues to be a refuge from the cold and a respite from Interstate 4, beckoning the huddled masses, longing to be free.