Finding the Lost City of Ave Maria
While touring through Florida last week, Shane Wooten Band performed at the 1st Annual Rocktober Roundup Festival located in the town of Ave Maria, FL. I did not know any think about Ave Maria except what I could find on their website and an undeveloped Facebook page.
However as the band and I made our way down I-75 South towards Alligator Alley my mind began to wonder where we were going to end up.
We took an exit, which lead us East through what appeared to be the middle of nowhere for about 30 miles and felt like forever. I had just called my contact with the festival, when we came to a stop sign across the street was a cow pasture as far as the eye could see and not much else. Again, where are we?
As we made our way down the road we began to drive into a little city, known as Immokalee, FL which HGTV Frontdoor.com states the name was submitted by settlers to the Postmaster General in 1895, suggested by the woman who would become the first Immokalee postmistress in 1898, Mary Burrell. It comes from the Creek language and means my home. Although there is a Seminole reservation there and casino, there is not much of anything else. The place looks like you stepped in a town in Mexico due to the large population of migrant workers and what appears to be a large concentration of low income housing. I wish I would have snapped a few photos at the time; however it was my turn to drive so was not able to.
As we left Immokalee, FL in the rear view we began to get into some real Florida marsh land looking area complete with Coyotes. As we traveled down the road to what appeared to be BFE I was wondering if we would ever find this lo
st city of Ave Maria. However, just as we began to
feel lost we saw a large structure appear from the landscape and it must have been what people felt like back in the day during explorations because to be surrounded by nothing but nature and to see the sign of humanity spring up from the landscape is magical.
We entered the city and one of the crew quickly stated that the large church took on the shape of the Pope’s hat. The town was immaculate and was a postcard in the making as we turned into the town’s center the streets were lined with peo
ple and shops as if it were a lost city that no one knew about resting here in the middle of the swamp. Additionally, luxury condos lined the tops of the shops in the town square that made you feel as though you were in standing in a very contemporary city. Also, there was a College located in the community, a new Publix, and talk of a College of Law coming.
The people that we meet there where all super nice and very accommodating as we began to explore around the city we quickly came to the conclusion that this city was entirely faith based on the Catholic religion and its roots showed in the architecture with the center piece begin the church. I do not know if that was a symbolic gesture to the thought that religion is at the center of life or not; however it made a great focal piece. On one hand the outside of the church was one of the nicest I have ever laid eyes on. On the other hand the inside was equally as nice as something that one may see in Europe only contemporary and new with awesome stone work and statues.
We set up our sound equipment and sound checked in, while listening to the sound of the band bounce around the town it left me the feeling that we were the first to perform a Country music set here let along the first to sign a song, such as “Mudslinger” or “Country Bad Ass”! However, the audience was very receptive to our songs and I really felt like the song “Dirt” written byEddie Kilgallon of Montgomery Gentry struck a chord, which was cool because we had only played that song for the first time the night before. The song has a line “this is my dirt, here on my shirt, from day’s work, I’m diggin that livin again” and I could not help but feel as though the people that lived here connected to the song due to their daily activity to build an awesome city out of the ground of what appeared to a be a cow pasture in the past. When we rolled out of the town and back into the Florida wilderness that surrounds Ave Maria, I felt like I could have stayed and became a settler of a new township!