Vance Harmon Park will host Poinciana's first 40th birthday bash celebration on May 26. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

POINCIANA – The first time Poinciana decided to celebrate a birthday bash, the community’s leaders organized a modest street fair, Jeanette Coughenour recalls.
”It was a Friday evening event,’’ said Coughenour, the manager of the Association of Poinciana Villages, the community’s homeowners association. ”It was at the old Poinciana Community Center, which is now the Town Center building. It was en event where people could dance and have a piece of birthday cake. It was located in what is now the Poinciana Town Center.’’
As Coughenour noted, that’s not a very big building – Poinciana would eventually replace it with a much larger Poinciana Community Center on Marigold Avenue.
But it served the purpose at the time, she said, because the community was then celebrating its 10th birthday. That was 30 years ago, in 1982, a time when Poinciana was still quite young, and had yet to be discovered by the strong rush of residential development.
”Obviously, it was a different community back then,’’ she said. ”Poinciana was a much smaller community then.’’
May marks a unique anniversary: the 40th year since Poinciana first became a community. Once again, there will be a birthday bash – in fact, three altogether, Coughenour noted, including one coming up at the end of this month.
And if Poinciana is no longer a rural community, with wide open fields and just a handful of people – today, there are 10 villages in Poinciana, cut across both Polk and Osceola counties, and home to more than 84,000 residents – all that means is the 40th birthday bash will be bigger and much better, Coughenour said.
”It’s basically going to be a very large birthday party for the community of Poinciana,’’ Coughenour said. ”It’s a free event, and a free gathering with food vendors and music.’’
The celebrations begin with the first bash, the Association of Poinciana Villages’s 40th Anniversary Music and Health Fair Festival. It will be held on Saturday, May 26 at Vance Harmon Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free, and area residents are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs while enjoying music, American and Latin food, and more.
There will be live performances by local bands, and performers from the Dominican Republic, Columbia, and Puerto Rico, while the food will offer a similar international flair, with special dishes from Mexico and other Latin American nations.
There will also be a health fair during the day, featuring physicians and nurses from local medical offices, providing free screenings to the people who attend, including tests for diabetes, high blood pressure, and back checks from chiropractors.
There will also be representatives from various non-profit agencies attending the festival, providing information to the public.
It promises to be a terrific event, said Myriam Santiago, who is organizing the celebration for the APV.
”We’ve got all the music booked already,” she said. ”We’ve got about 30 booths and vendors. We have a blood bank and a lot of (political) candidates. We’ve got everything.”
She hopes the same is true for one last element of an outdoor festival: good weather.
”We’re hoping there will be no rain,” she said. ”Otherwise, everything will be perfect.”
Coughenour said APV anticipates so many people attending this celebration that they decided the Poinciana Community Center – ironically built to offer a lot more space to the public than the old Poinciana Town Center – was judged to be too small for a festival of this size. Instead, it was moved to Vance Harmon Park as an outdoor event.
”It’s going to be a very large gathering with a lot of people,’’ she said. ‘’There will be live entertainment that hopefully will appeal to all tastes. They did a 10-year birthday bash a long time ago, but this one will be much bigger. Even the new community center is too small for an event of this size.’’
This will be the first of three birthday bashes in 2012. The second, in October, will focus on activities for children, while the third one will be held right after the annual Poinciana Christmas parade in early December.
”In October we’re planning an event that will be geared toward kids,’’ Coughenour said. ”Then we’ll have a finale to close out the year in December.’’
The community grew by huge leaps and bounds in the past decade, rising from 20,000 residents to more than 80,000. Homes were getting built every 90 days here around 2005 and 2006.
Still, anyone who has moved to Poinciana in recent years, Coughenour said, may not know there’s a lot more history to this community that simply the building boom that went on when the housing market was soaring between 2004 and 2007.

The groundbreaking ceremony in February for the Poinciana Medical Center was viewed as a great advance for the community, and a terrific way to start the new year. (Photo by Dave Raith).

While the community was hard hit by the recession and the collapse of the housing market, Coughenour said the community has made great strides in the past year, opening up Poinciana’s first football field at Vance Harmon Park, opening a Boys & Girls Club Teen Center for after-school activities, and watching the groundbreaking ceremony in February for the new Poinciana Medical Center, the community’s first hospital. Construction is now underway on the hospital, which will open next year.
Officials in Polk and Osceola counties have also agreed to move forward on the construction of the Poinciana Parkway, a new toll road that will make it easier for residents to get in and out of the community, she said.
”There’s an enormous amount of positives here,’’ Coughenour said, adding that the birthday bash will emphasize those advances.
”These are things that people have waited for and need,’’ she said. ”These are all positives, and things in some big or small way that so many people have been involved in fighting for.’’
Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance — which is working to bring more jobs and economic growth to the community — said this birthday bash is just the right kind of celebration that this community needs.
”I think it’s great,” he said. ”The whole community seems to be coming more alive, and the hospital is a big part of that. The hospital will be coming out of the ground vertically soon, and when we have the groundbreaking for the Poinciana Parkway in November, hopefully there will be another surge of enthusiasim from that. Everybody is just excited now. Everything is moving in the right direction.”
To learn more about the May 26 birthday bash, call Santiago at 407-535-7768.

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