The first undertaking of the Friends of McIntosh was the creation of a mini-park (now known as the McKoone Hopwood Mini Park) next to the post office. This park was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1973. They landscaped the plot and built and painted a fence with materials donated from businesses in both Gainesville and Ocala.
The next project was to obtain, move, and restore the old McIntosh train depot which was built prior to 1890. It had to be removed from the existing Seaboard Coastline’s right-of-way. Activities held by the Friends to begin accruing the money to do such a task were holding bake sales, dinners and other events, but it was clear that more money would be needed. This was the origin of the festival.
The first festival was held on Oct. 19, 1974 as a fund raiser and originally called the McIntosh Gay Nineties Festival. It had an attendance of approximately 4,000 people. It has since grown and the Festival now hosts over 250 vendors and an estimated 35,000 visitors.
Each year the 1890’s Festival raises money to fund additional projects in the community. The most noteworthy of these is the creation of an a scholarship fund to assist local and area young people pursue their scholastic careers. Others have included a front-porch addition to the Community Center; the installation of playground equipment for the children; the Victorian-style lamp posts in the main park in the center of town, Van Ness Park; the clock in the Mini-Park; and the purchase of the old Carriage House adjacent to the depot. The Friends of McIntosh also support various organizations through donations, to organizations such as the American Heart Association, the local Emergency Assistance Fund, the Salvation Army and the Cub, Boy and Girl Scouts.
The Friends of McIntosh also established “Light Up McIntosh” in 1993. A decorating contest held each December, residents and business owners decorate their homes, businesses and the town for the Holidays. It is always a sight to behold! Come visit McIntosh one evening to see everyone’s hard work!