By Nicole Rodriguez, TC Palm
PALM CITY — Martin County business owners, politicians and descendants of Palm City’s pioneer families gathered at the Floridian on the St. Lucie River to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the community’s founding.
Johnny Leighton, 69, of Palm City recalled a time growing up when the area had 75 homes on 12 streets. Leighton’s ancestors came to the area in 1914 and are credited with building the first post office. They also donated land for the city’s first dance hall. Jock Leighton Park is named after the family’s patriarch.
Leighton stressed the importance of the celebration, hosted by the Palm City Chamber of Commerce. “It’ll be nice for the younger generations down the road to keep passing history along so people know about the pioneers,” Leighton said.
Leighton, who was honored during the celebration, also shared fond memories of growing up in the area.
“I was very fortunate to grow up with the pioneers,” said Leighton, whose father was Jock and grandparents were Charles and Rose Leighton. “Everyone knew each other.”
Peter Cummings, who now resides in Palm Beach County, received the Man of the Century Award by the chamber and event chairman Tom McNicholas. Cummings, who developed Martin Downs in the 1980s said the area had potential in the early days and has blossomed into a bustling city since his arrival in the 1970s.
“There was really nothing here. We built the sewer, roads and golf courses,” said Cummings, chairman of Ram Realty Services in Palm Beach Gardens. “We thought Palm City could develop into what it is today. I really love the area.”
The night’s attendees included billionaire Wayne Huizenga, state representatives Gayle Harrell and William Snyder and state Sen. Joe Negron, along with county commissioners Ed Ciampi, Doug Smith and Patrick Hayes.
The night ended with a fireworks display with the river as its backdrop. Dozens lined the Palm City Bridge for a good view.
Palm City residents Robert and Kim Johnson brought their children, Amelia, 12, and Sam, 10, to see the show.
“I like watching the fireworks,” Amelia said as the display began. “Everyone comes together to watch.”
Kim Johnson was happy to participate in the centennial celebration.
“It’s exciting that we live in a town that’s celebrating its 100th birthday,” Johnson said. “We love it here.”
Rich Atz and Wendy Younglove, both of Palm City, enjoyed the show from their prime spot on the bridge.
“It’s a beautiful night and a nice time to come out and see some fireworks,” Atz said.