Today is the swans’ Sapphire Jubilee, which marks 65 years since Queen Elizabeth’s royal swans arrived on Lake Morton. In case you’re not familiar, royal Jubilees are celebrated every 25 years to honor significant milestones in a monarch’s life.
As the story goes, Lakeland’s native swan population dwindled to extinction in 1953. The Queen sent two birds to Lakeland, and the pair arrived on Feb. 8, 1957. A day after their arrival, the cob had flown the coop. He was quickly found + reunited with his pen on Lake Morton.
Shortly after, he was met with an untimely passing before the next generation of cygnets could come about. The remaining swan chose her mate from a pool of eligible bachelors at the Florida Swannery, and the family of royal swans on Lake Morton was born.
Coincidentally, the Sapphire Jubilee happens to fall on the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, which honors her reign as the first British monarch to achieve 70 years of service. In honor of this momentous occasion, let’s take a look at five things Lakeland’s royal family predate here in Lakeland.
The Southgate sign | Nov. 19, 1957
This beloved local landmark made its debut at the grand opening of the Southgate Shopping Center 11 months after the swans arrived.
The Lakeland Flying Tigers | 1963
Lakeland’s baseball team got its official moniker in 1963.
Mayfaire by the Lake | 1972
This annual arts fair began as a small crafting festival at the Lakeland Public Library’s lawn on Lake Morton. Now, it attracts 75,000 annual visitors.
The first Publix pharmacy | 1986
George Jenkins himself was the first customer to have a prescription filled at Publix’s first pharmacy, back in 1986.
Hollis Gardens | 2000
The gardens are thought to be a living monument of Florida’s flora and fauna.