‘Remembering’ Florida through modern media

Just as his famous father, the late Patrick Smith of Merritt Island, captured the spirit of Florida’s pioneer past in his novel “A Land Remembered,” Rick Smith, now of California, continues the family legacy of sharing Old Florida, but with modern multimedia storytelling.

Written in 1984, “A Land Remembered” is historical fiction covering more than a century of Florida history from 1858 to 1968.

It has been said people should be issued a copy when they cross the Florida state line because it shows the “real Florida,” not merely the vacation destination most imagine when they think of the state.

“I started doing my show pretty much by accident,” said Rick Smith, who will be appearing at the Melbourne High School auditorium on Saturday. “Dad was a popular public speaker for many years. When his health started failing, and he decided it was time to get off the speaking circuit, people asked me if I would come and speak to their group. I did it a few times, where I just stood in front of an audience and talked. That was stressful for me.”

But he had an idea about how to bring “A Land Remembered” to a whole new generation.

“I’ve spent my whole working career creating video and visual media, so I put that to good use and created a visual program to support my talk. This not only makes it more interesting for the audience, but it give me a lot of confidence because I always know what I’m talking about next.

“[At the same time] the show is constantly changing and evolving. It is modular, so I can add or delete parts of it to make it fit different audiences and stage times. I have a lot of fun with the creative side of making the show.

“I spent almost two years working on it, off and on, and went on several road trips throughout Florida to shoot scenes and find historical photos to illustrate what [my father was writing about],” he said.

The highlight of the presentation are video segments featuring Patrick Smith.

“It took a couple of years to get him to finally sit down for my video camera, but he did and I’m so glad of it. I bring him into my show in several key spots by using some of that video. I feel like in a real sense, we’re doing the show together,” Rick Smith said.

Rick Smith has now done his show nearly 200 times, and is already booking dates as far out as next November.

“At first I felt like the show’s appeal was all about ‘A Land Remembered,’” but now it has taken on a life of its own and people want the show for its entertainment value. It’s not just about the book anymore,’’ he said.

Coming to the Space Coast is always special, Smith said.

“My parents moved to Merritt Island in 1966, and my father has a huge fan base in Brevard County. I look forward to bringing the show to Melbourne. I expect to meet a lot of folks who knew him,’’ he said.

The South Brevard Historical Society will present “Patrick Smith’s Florida Is a Land Remembered” at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 11 at Melbourne High School auditorium. Admission is $5 for SBHS members, $10 for the general public. Seating is limited. Pre-registration required. Alandremembered.com.

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