One of the most entertaining and heartfelt weekends of the Put-in-Bay summer, Founders Day celebrates Hispanic merchant Jose DeRivera who in 1854 purchased South Bass, Middle Bass, Sugar, Gibraltar, Ballast and Starve Islands for a price of $44,000. Throughout the following years, he sold off parcels of the land including the school property for $1 and the St. Paul’s church property for $10. This day celebrates the island’s heritage and DeRivera’s good deeds.
Founders Day means always great food and lots of fun for the entire family. Most of the events are held in DeRivera Park, aptly named after Jose, downtown from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Island entertainment usually performs a free concert in the afternoon from 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM. The Put-in-Bay Hog Roasters often provide a great roast hog picnic lunch for a small donation. Shoppers will be happy to find fantastic bargains at one of the many sale tables and pick up information on one of our non-profit groups that rely on the support of our community and visitors.
A Short and Sweet History of Jose DeRivera on Founders Day
Within ten years of his initial purchase of land, DeRivera sold 42 parcels of land on his various islands. His first sale was to the South Bass Board of Education. This sale, which was really more of a generous donation, exchanged a plot of land above Catawba Avenue for $1. This area became home to the first official schoolhouse on South Bass Island.
In addition to selling properties on South Bass Island, DeRivera also gave away other tracts of his land. He donated an area for the village park, and provided a place for the famous St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He helped the winemakers construct their vineyards, supported local government, and helped make the island what it is today: a place of happiness and enjoyment.
On May 31, 1889, at the age of 76, DeRivera passed away. We are proud to carry on his legacy at Put-in-Bay with Founders Day, and we would love to have you visit our beloved South Bass Island. The Put-in-Bay Hotels, Put-in-Bay Cabins, Put-in-Bay Condos, and the Island Club rentals are ready when you are. We look forward to seeing you soon!