For more than 45 years, LaBelle, a town of 4,000 just east of Fort Myers on the Caloosahatchee River, has been celebrating swamp cabbage in a down-home festival and parade. The 2014 Swamp Cabbage Festival is Feb. 22-23.
Swamp cabbage — it’s called hearts of palm when you pay $10 for it in a fancy restaurant — comes from the state tree, the sabal or cabbage palm.
The festival is the sort of small-town extravaganza where teen-age girls vie in a beauty pageant, the high school band plays “Louie Louie” in the parade, and folks argue about whether the big entertainment is the rodeo or the armadillo races.
Here’s what’s planned for the 2014 LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival
The festival is free and fill’s the city’s waterfront Barron Park, North State Road 29 at the Caloosahatchee River. The parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22. Entertainment inhlcuddes Brooke Huffmaster & The Moccasin River Band performing 4:45 p.m.-6:45 p.m.
These events occur annually but have not been confirmed for 2014:
- The South Central Florida Car Club Car Show on Fort Thompson Avenue in downtown LaBelle with classic American muscle cars and other noteworthy vehicles from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
- The Hendry County Cattlemen Association Annual Ranch Rodeo at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. It’s $5 for adults; kids under 10 are free. This takes place at the rodeo grounds on State Road 29. The rodeo features homegrown Florida cowboys and cowgirls and is a qualifying event for the Florida Cattlemen’s Association state championships in Kissimmee.
- There’s the Swamp Stomp 5K run to benefit the Humane Society.
Here’s the complete schedule from 2013. The 2014 schedule will be posted when complete.
Saturday, Feb. 22
- Noon opening prayer
- 12:10 p.m.Queen & Princess introduction and performance
- 12:20 p.m. Live music
- 1:15 p.m. Cloggers
- 2:15 p.m. Live music
- 3:15 p.m. Cloggers
- 4 p.m. Live music from main entertainment
Sunday, Feb. 23
- 10 a.m. International Christian Academy
- 10:30 a.m. Blackwater Band
- 11:30 a.m. Dave Randant
- 12:15 p.m. Queen & Princess introduction & performance
- 12:30 p.m. Nightwind Band
- 1:20 p.m. The Dance Company
- 3 p.m. Live music from main entertainment
Here’s more information on the Swamp Cabbage Festival website.
Campgrounds and Lodging Near LaBelle:
Check out this video of the Armadillo Races:
Directions: Labelle is 28 miles east of Fort Myers on State Road 80, also known as Palm Beach Boulevard. If you are coming from the east coast, Labelle is 98 miles west of West Palm Beach on State Road 80. And if you are travelling south from the Orlando area, take U.S. 27 south for 74 miles to Palmdale, where you pick up County Road 29 for the final 14 miles to Labelle.