The Sunshine State

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We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’re proud to call Florida, the Sunshine State home, but let’s be honest: Florida gets overlooked a lot when people talk about interesting histories or facts about states.  Everyone’s too busy focusing on the weather and DisneyWorld!  It might be because although we’re geographically in the American South, Florida is very different culturally from the rest of the South unless you’re talking about the northernmost part of the state.  People don’t know where to place us!  So, in honor of the state we call home, here are 25 interesting facts and historical oddities about our state!

  1. The so-called “Five Flags of Florida” are the flags of the Spanish Empire (flown 1565-1763), the Kingdom of Great Britain (flown 1763-1784), Spain (flown 1784-1821), the Confederate States of America (flown 1861-1865), and the United States of America (flown 1784-1861 and 1865 to present).
  2. Clearwater, FL, is the most lightning-struck (per capita) city in the United States.
  3. Florida is the most visited state in the country, with nearly 80 million visitors every year.
  4. Florida produces more citrus fruit, tomatoes, green peppers, watermelons, sweetcorn and sugar than any other state.
  5. The muckland south of Lake Okeechobee is the largest body of organic soil on Earth.
  6. Lake Okeechobee is actually a massive sink hole, a gigantic indentation in the limestone bedrock of the state.
  7. The longest river sailboat race in the world is the Annual Mug Race, running 42 miles from Palatka, FL to Jacksonville, FL along the St. Johns River.
  8. The official state song, “Old Folks at Home (Suwannee River),” was written by Stephen Foster, who never set foot in Florida, and chose the river because he and his brother saw it on a map and decided it “sounded best.”
  9. Florida produces 75% of America’s oranges, and an absurd 40% of the entire planet’s supply of oranges!
  10. DeFuniak Springs, FL is home to one of the two almost perfectly round natural lakes in the world, Lake DeFuniak.
  11. Plant City, FL holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest strawberry shortcake: 827 square-feet, 6,000 pounds.
  12. Key West, FL has the highest average temperature of any municipality in the United States.
  13. The world’s first scheduled passenger service airline flight was flown in 1914 from St. Petersburg, FL to Tampa, FL.
  14. Mechanical refrigeration technology was invented in Apalachicola, FL in 1851 by Dr. John Gorrie.
  15. St. Augustine, FL is the oldest continuously inhabited non-native settlement in North America, founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.
  16. The most active hurricane season in recorded history for Florida is a tie between 2004, when four full-fledged hurricanes, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, came ashore in the state, and 2005, when another four, Dennis, Katrina (yes, THAT Katrina), Rita and Wilma all came ashore here.
  17. Florida has the 4th largest state population in the county, the 4th largest state GDP in the country, and is the 4th largest state-level exporter in the country.
  18. The horse, which had been extinct in North America for about 10,000 years when the Europeans first arrived, was first reintroduced to the continent in Florida in 1538.
  19. Crystal River, FL is the only place in North America where it is legal to have a supervised swim with manatees.
  20. The world’s deepest freshwater spring is Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee, FL.
  21. “Florida” means “Feast of Flowers” in Spanish.
  22. Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida by population, with 836,507 people as of 2012, but Miami, the state’s second largest city by population, had 413,892 people in 2012 packed into less than 1/21 of Jacksonville’s land area!
  23. There were 1.6 million veterans living in Florida as of 2010, the second highest total in the country.
  24. The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world is in Lakeland, FL.
  25. About half of all Major League Baseball teams have spring training in Florida, with teams organized into the informal “Grapefruit League.”
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