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.
Here’s what happened at the 2014 LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival
We don’t have the schedule for 2015 yet, so the details here reflect 2014.
- The parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22.
- 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 what was schedules for 2014.
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014
11:45-Queen/Princess Introduction and Performance
Mid-day: Armadillo races
12:45-Introduction of Pioneer Family & Grand Marshal
1 p.m.-Country Rhythm Cloggers
1:50-Yard Dog Charlie
4 p.m.-Alter Eagles
Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014
9 a.m. -Gospel
10 a.m. -Press On
11:30-The Dance Company
Mid-day: Armadillo races
12:35-Queen/Princess Introduction and Performance
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.”
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.
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
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. If you want to be a vendor at the festival, here’s the application.