Festivals / News / Southwest Florida

LaBelle’s Swamp Cabbage Festival: Armadillo races, rodeo, more: Feb. 21-22, 2015

 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 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival is Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22, 2015.

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 debate whether the big entertainment is the rodeo or the armadillo races.

2015 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. 21.
  • 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 6 p.m. Saturday nights. It’s $10 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.

Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015

Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade

Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade

1:30 a.m. – Opening Prayer and National Anthem

11:45 a.m. -Queen/Princess introduction and performance

12:00 p.m.-China Grove

1:10 p.m. Introduction of the Pioneer Family and Grand Marshal

1:20 p.m. Country Rhythm Cloggers

2:15 p.m.- Blackwater Band

3:30 p.m.- Showtime Cloggers

4:35 p.m.- Buckshot band

9 p.m. Adult country western dance, LaBelle Civic Center, 481 W. Hickpochee Ave. Live music by Derrick Scott Band. Admission $10.

Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015

9:00 a.m.- Gospel Music

10:00 a.m.-Dave Randant

10:45 a.m.- Posse Band

11:30 a.m.- The Dance Company

12:35 p.m. Queen/Princess introduction and performance

1:15 p.m. Press On

2:15 p.m.- 64 to Grayson

3:15 p.m.- Day by Day

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.”

Historic LaBelle

Forrey Grill in historic bilding downtown

Forrey Grill in historic bilding downtown

LaBelle historic district sign

LaBelle historic district sign

LaBelle started as a town located right on the main drag, the Caloosahatchee River, because at the turn to 19th Century, rivers were the highways of Florida. The region was populated by cattle and citrus farmers and in 1895, landowner Captain Francis Hendry platted the town that would become the seat of the county named after him.

While a 1928 fire destroyed many of the original buildings, a few remain and the historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town, however, is now in a decidedly out of the way location and its historic downtown is a work in progress.

We had a terrific lunch in a beautifully restored downtown cafe called the Forrey Grill, with a tasty blackened grilled chicken on a croissant sandwich and fresh crunchy homemade potato chips.

We’ve also enjoyed excellent barbecue at Log Cabin BBQ, 480 W Hickpochee Ave. You’ll want to stop here after reading all the reviews on Yelp. The free soup was especially good. (Yup, free soup for everyone.)

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 (17 miles)
This is a beautifully maintained campground with attractive sites with shade trees and views of the Caloosahatchee River. There’s a fishing pier at the dam, with saltwater on the east side and fresh water on the west side.

Caloosahatee Regional Park (15 miles)

Pioneer Village, Encore (24 miles)

Silver Dollar, Encore (24 miles)

Check out this video of the Armadillo Races:


NOTE: Florida Rambler is not associated with the festival nor do we sell or know where you can buy swamp cabbage.


  1. Hello, I am thinking about visiting your town this upcoming weekend, but I am a little confuse about where the armadillo race takes place. How much does it cost to go to watch the armadillo race? also, is the rodeo close by the armadillo race? how much is it to watch the fishing tournament? It says $100 per team, however, I do not want to compete. I just want to watch the tournament. Thanks!

    • The armadillo races take place at the festival site throughout the weekend. There are about 20 races in all. They are very similar to the pig races you see at county fairs. There is not usually a charge to watch them.

      The rodeo is held at the rodeo grounds on U.S. 29 in Labelle. Both nights. Admission is $10.

      The fishing tournament is a participant sport, not a spectator sport. There’s nothing to see except the start and the weigh-in at the end of the day. The fishermen disappear in their boats and speed off to their favorite fishing holes. They don’t want you to watch or know where those fishing holes are located.

  2. Patricia Myers says:

    how do I get rid of the ads which cover half the article on my iPad?

    • turn the iPad vertical to see if that helps. We are looking into the issue. The ads are supposed to adjust, or move themselves to the bottom of the text. but they don’t always do that on tablets, particularly the iPad. sorry you’re having trouble with this.

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    If you love bird watching and taking pictures of birds you will love this park. You will find bird feeding stations throughout the park.

  4. Gil Sullivan says:

    I would like vendor info. 7th generation Floridian. I cook Florida food.

  5. Brittany says:

    Don’t forget the mudhole!

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

  7. 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

  8. 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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