When Mimi Cirbusova caught sight of Andrea Knies taking a selfie with Charles Ringling's portrait at The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, she knew they were going to become friends. But while bonding over a shared love of local history, the two soon realized that their passion was contagious: While nerding out over Sarasota lore, they often brought surrounding conversations to a halt.
Presented with an opportunity to spread their hometown pride, they launched Compass Rose History Experiences, a storytelling project that presents the past in a fun, conversational way. It's local history, for locals, by locals.
Both Cirbusova and Knies have worked in education and are tireless researchers, delving deep into newspaper archives, census records and library resources to glean as much information as possible. Focusing both on prominent figures and the intimate details of everyday living, they paint a striking portrait of Sarasota's rich past.
This July, I attended History Under the Stars, an outdoor Compass Rose presentation offered in partnership with Canned Ham Vintage. Cirbusova and Knies regaled the crowd with stories of our foremothers and forefathers who are interred at Rosemary Cemetery. We learned how Owen Burns caught a train to chase down the love of his life (so romantic) and why the group of Scottish settlers who arrived in 1885 were so flummoxed during their first winter here (it snowed). The pair likes to point out that Sarasota is still just a “baby city” and that these happenings weren't so long ago, which helps people feel connected to the city's past.
In addition to events, Compass Rose also offers a semi-regular blog and hosts a podcast, Lovably Local. The blog allows them to explore particular subjects at greater depth than at their events. Currently, the pair is working through a series of posts highlighting their favorite old buildings "still used as buildings." With their podcast, they hope to reach a broader audience and inspire other small towns to embrace their own individual histories. Their first episode focused on how streets get their names.
Compass Rose is also partnering with 99 Bottles for History and Beer, a series of events at which guests will be treated to stories paired with craft beers. They will also make an appearance at South Gate Fest on Saturday, Sept. 28. On Tuesday, Oct. 22, they will return to Canned Ham for another History Under the Stars event. The duo also offers tailored presentations for businesses or parties, and they can provide walking tours or create a dossier that fuses your business with local history.