My dad & stepmom had a Snowbird abode in LaBelle for several years. They’d both mentioned the Swamp Cabbage Festival on more than one occasion. It’s held annually on the last weekend in February & this small town grows substantially at that time.
The Swamp Cabbage Festival is held in honor of Florida’s state tree the Sabal Palm also known as the Cabbage Palm. The festival began in 1965. It recognizes the delicacy called “Heart of Palm” which is the meat of the tree. A Swamp Stomp 5k run kicks off the festival, that is closely followed by a parade. The 2 main roads through town are closed for the event & people start lining the parade path well in advance. It’s a pretty spectacular parade too. We left the campground early to get a prime spot, we were lucky as everyone else seemed to have the same idea.
Celebrities Ronald McDonald & Smoky the Bear were in attendance.
After the parade all of the remaining events & stage acts are held in Barren Park on the Caloosahatchee River. I believe the biggest draw to the park is the food. Don & I have been to many festivals, fairs & local park events but never have we seen these food choices on any other festival menu. I would liked to have reported that we had sampled a few of these delicacies but we didn’t have the patience to fight the crowd & wait in long, long lines in the heat & humidity. Maybe another time. As my father had so succinctly said to me, try the Swamp Cabbage stew, try the gator tail, stay away from the Indian food & be sure to bring your Kaopectate. Kind of makes a person think twice.
We did however attend our very first armadillo race. Bets are placed. The gate is raised. And they’re off! What a hoot! Of the 6 armadillos, one went into the nearest corner. One curled up into a ball just outside the gate. One wanted to go back behind the gate & 2 slooowly waddled down to the finish line. The crowd went wild! Hootin’. Hollerin”. Clapping & foot stomping. We had a ball!
Later Saturday evening as we were heading just down the road to have dinner at a local diner, on a whim Don decided to drive into Fort Myers Historic Riverfront District for dinner at Fords Garage, a restaurant our friends the Bogies had told us about. We found Main Street closed when we arrived. We had stumbled onto an old car show. Don parked down by the water & we walked in. Fords Garage was jumping. The hostess told us we’d have at least a 40 minute wait, but one of the nice things about Fords Garage is they will send a text message to your cell phone when your table is ready. This freed us to stroll down main street & a few of the feeder streets to take in the old cars & enjoy the oldies tunes being broadcast by a local radio station. There was a variety of cars to take in, everything from an early Ford motorcar to a 2014 BMV. There were vintage Beetles, Woodies, & old Chevy pickups. Our favorite was a ragtop 1957 Belair. 1957 was a very good year.
My apologies for picture quality of the car photos, I’d left my camera behind & had to use my iPhone instead.
Fords Garage is basically a burger & beer joint. we should have ordered burgers since that is their specialty but we ordered the fish & chips instead. It was fine, nothing special. Their version of a Bloody Mary though was very tasty. It’s listed on the menu as a Mustang Mary & consists of Vodka, Spicy Bloody Mary mix, & Yuengling beer, garnished with Bleu cheese olives, a pickle spear & crispy bacon. It’s served with a Yuengling chaser. It rated right up there with my father’s Bloody Caesar.
Photos of Ford’s Garage are stock pictures as I didn’t have my camera with me.
We wanted to check out a couple of RV parks in Bonita Springs as a possible Winter base for 2014/2015. We liked one better than the other but both were attractive & active parks. The roads were narrower than we cared for & the sites a bit tighter. We’ve found that often in parks that are closer to the beaches. I think they just like to pack ’em in like sardines to make a buck. But for us the biggest plus was that we were only 5 miles from the Gulf. We had plenty of soul searching to do. Were we willing to give up space & privacy to be closer to the ocean?
To help us to make our decision, we headed for where else? The beach. There are 3 in the area that are popular, Barefoot Beach, Bonita Beach & Lovers Key. I’d heard that Lovers Key was a beautiful place so that’s the direction we headed. My informant wasn’t lying. It is beautiful! The beach, the estuary, the park. We waded into the water, strolling along the shoreline & discussed the pros & cons of the parks & town in comparison with Seminole & our current area. We agreed to sleep on it before making the final decision. But decide we must & soon so we can make reservations & get our deposit in as Florida is a popular roosting place for Snowbirds.
Before arriving at Lovers Key State Park we noticed a sign outside the entrance with the words Dog Beach written on it. On our return, we stopped. What a wonderful concept. A Gulf beach in a lovely setting where a blended family, fur & non fur, can romp off leash in the surf together. The experience was ruined for us though because of the actions of some of the non fur attendees. The city has a posted sign at the entrance asking dog owners to please clean up after their four-legged companions. Dog bags & conveniently placed trash cans are provided. We encountered several piles of feces that had been left on the path. We even saw where someone had taken the action of cleaning up after their pup only to leave the baggie sitting under a tree beside the path.
As we were leaving a young man entered carrying his beach chair, a cooler & his leashed dog. The dog took the opportunity to heed the call of nature right in front of us. The guy started to walk onward, hesitated, turned around & inquired if we had a dog bag he could use. Now what kind of an ignorant ass goes to a dog beach with his dog without having any baggies on hand. Needless to say, since Tucker wasn’t with us we didn’t have any baggies handy. The guy turned & continued onward to the beach. It’s people like that that makes you just want to slap ’em alongside their head & ask, “What the hell are you thinking?” Don looked at me & just shook his head. Tucker won’t be coming here to play. A pity too. We wondered just how long the city would continue to offer this beach with all of the abuses going on.
Next stop was the International airport in Fort Myers. Our grandchildren will be flying into here via Southwest in a few weeks. We wanted to have a feel for the place before they arrived so that parking & locating the terminal would go smoothly. At the airport exit there is also a shopping complex & in it is one of Don’s favorite stores, Bass Pro Shop. Yes our truck had a mind of its own, it made a beeline right into a slot directly in front of the store. I am always amazed by the displays inside the Bass Pro Shops. The eyes are always drawn up & around. Each store’s is different & unique to the area it’s located in. I always find myself standing in the middle of the main aisle gazing upward & turning in circles.
It was a full weekend. We had a good time.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid………………….