Here, we remember some of Central Florida’s biggest moments that happened in July.
This month, Central Florida celebrates the anniversaries of some pretty significant events in the area’s history. From NASA to the NBA, here are three iconic milestones that helped put Orlando and the surrounding areas on the map.
Orlando is Born
While The City Beautiful is celebrating its 143rd birthday this month, it’s still young at heart. Orlando was incorporated as a town on July 31, 1875 and as a city 10 years later. It’s difficult to picture Orlando as anything besides the booming metropolitan area it is now, but it wasn’t always this way. It began as a small town that encompassed four square miles and included only 82 eligible voters. In the time since, Orlando has grown to become Florida’s fifth largest city, with a population of 238,000 and 2.2 million people residing in the surrounding metropolitan area, as of the 2010 census. With endless tourist attractions that continue to be a huge draw year after year and a growing food scene with nationally recognized chefs, Orlando has been able to change with the times without losing its small town charm.
U.S. Puts a Man on the Moon
In 1969, the world watched as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. The moon landing was part of Apollo 11, the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program, which launched from Cape Canaveral (then called Cape Kennedy) on July 16. Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and uttered those famous words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 11 fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing on the moon before the end of the 1960s, effectively finishing the great Space Race. The astronauts were welcomed home with celebrations after they returned to Earth on July 24 and each was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Beginning of Orlando Basketball
On July 27, 1986, Orlando’s hometown basketball team, the Orlando Magic, got its name. Team manager Jim L. Hewitt and former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Pat Williams were the driving forces behind bringing an NBA team to The City Beautiful. Once it was decided that they would seek a franchise, the duo partnered with The Orlando Sentinel, asking readers to submit name ideas for the new team. More than 4,000 entries were narrowed down to “heat,” “tropics,” “juice” and “magic.” Magic was ultimately picked as a reference to Orlando’s biggest attraction, Walt Disney World, and its popular park, Magic Kingdom. The Orlando Magic are noted for reaching the NBA Finals in seasons 94-95 and 08-09, as well as drafting Shaquille O’Neal in 1992.