Festivals / News / Southwest Florida

LaBelle’s Swamp Cabbage Festival: Armadillo races, rodeo & more, Feb. 22-23, 2014

 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.

Yes, there are armadillo races. You don’t see them on the Swamp Cabbage Festival website because organizers weren’t sure the Rotary Club would be back with the popular event this year, but Florida Rambler confirmed there will be races mid-day both Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s what’s planned for the 2014 LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival

swamp cabbage festival signThe 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.

Highlights include:

  • 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 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.

Here’s the complete schedule for 2014.

Saturday, Feb. 22

11:30-Opening Prayer
11:45-Queen/Princess Introduction and Performance

Mid-day: Armadillo races

Noon-Cracker Blues
12:45-Introduction of Pioneer Family & Grand Marshal
1 p.m.-Country Rhythm Cloggers
1:50-Yard Dog Charlie
2:30-Showtime Cloggers
4 p.m.-Alter Eagles


Sunday, Feb. 23

9 a.m. -Gospel
10 a.m. -Press On
10:45-Dylan Awbrey
11:30-The Dance Company

Mid-day: Armadillo races

12:35-Queen/Princess Introduction and Performance
1:15-Scott McKean
2:15-Terri and Andrew Dean
3 p.m.-China Grove

Here’s more information on the Swamp Cabbage Festival website.

If you love armadillos, you’ll get 15 seconds of fun from this armadillo “dancing.”

Where is LaBelle?

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. (See map above).

Find a room near LaBelle

Port LaBelle Inn, LaBelle

Hotels near La Belle

Find a campground near LaBelle

Ortono South, Army Corp of Engineers (8 miles)

WP Franklin Lock, Army Corp of Engineers (15 miles)

Pioneer Village, Encore (24 miles)

Silver Dollar, Encore (24 miles)

Check out this video of the Armadillo Races:



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  1. Brittany says:

    Don’t forget the mudhole!

  2. Pingback: Everglades Seafood Festival 2012: Feb. 3, 4 and 5 | Florida Rambler

  3. ann bland says:

    I am trying to locate a source from which I can purchase swamp cabbage and have it shipped. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Ann,
      You can buy swamp cabbage, AKA hearts of palm, at many grocers. it is sold in small cans in the canned vegetables section.
      Many brands and varieties, including organic, are available online in the grocery section at Amazon.com.
      Hope that helps. :-)

  4. Here are some really nice photographs organized in three galleries by a FloridaRambler reader:

    Labelle Cattleman’s Rodeo, 2/26/11

    Labelle Auto Show, 2/26/11

    Labelle Swamp Cabbage Festival, 2/26/11

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