The dappled sunlight sneaking through the new spring growth of the oak trees in Plant Park on Sunday added to the Victorian atmosphere, as period enthusiasts strolled around with parasols wearing long gowns, pith helmets and boots.
Adding to the ambience was the Tampa Community Band, playing for a crowd expected to top 1,000 by the day’s end.
The ninth annual Picnic in the Park was hosted by the Henry B. Plant Museum, housed in the adjacent Plant Hall on the University of Tampa campus. The event isn’t a fund raiser, said Cynthia Gandee Zinober, executive director of the museum.
“It’s more of a friend raiser,” she said. “This is just to expand our level of support.”
As she talked, the music wafted through the trees, creating a perfect Victorian picture, with people in period outfits lounging on blankets with basket lunches and sipping beverages from silver goblets. The warm sun signaled the end, or near end, of winter and a soft breeze added to the picture perfect picnic.
The event was free, though picnic goers could plunk down $6 for a water taxi ride or spend 25 cents for a bag of popcorn, she said.
“It’s nice to see the park as it was back in Henry B. Plant’s day,” said Jose Gelats, a volunteer at the museum.
Victorian games also were taking place, said Heather Trubee Brown, curator of education with the museum, who was handing out pamphlets.
“We have hoops and sticks and badminton, horseshoes and putt-putt golf,” Brown said. There were chess and checkers games going on at tables draped in white tablecloths, and tiddlywinks too.
Drawing looks was R.J. Foster with the Steam Punk Society, a collection of enthusiasts who revel in the mechanical wonders of the late 19th century, inspired by the works of H.G. Wells “Time Machine” and Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
He wore a leather vest with small mechanical doodads that clicked and spun, catching the curious eyes of children and adults.
“I get lots of looks,” said the Orlando man who attends Victorian events all over the state. “I get a lot of questions.”
Luci and Jerry Keith enjoyed the music and breeze under the oaks, both decked out in Victorian outfits.
“It is a beautiful, wonderful day,” Luci Keith said.
Though the Tampa couple tries to make all the Victorian events at the museum, this is their first picnic.
“The next one,” Jerry Keith said, “we’ll make it a little more elaborate.”