LaBelle — For 51 years, this authentic Florida town east of Fort Myers has been celebrating swamp cabbage in a down-home festival and parade.
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.
2017 LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival
This is the schedule from 2016; it will be updated with 2017 information when available:
- Parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Parade travels north on Bridge Street from Cowboy Way to Barron Park.
- Florida Car Club Classic 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.
- Hendry County Cattlemen Association Annual Ranch Rodeo at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, and 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. 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. 27, 2016
11:30 a.m. – Opening Prayer and National Anthem
11:45 a.m. -Queen/Princess introduction and performance
12:00 p.m.- Lester Beleau Band
1:10 p.m. Introduction of the Pioneers and Grand Marshal
1:20 p.m. Country Rhythm Cloggers
2:15 p.m.- Shannon Reed Band
3:30 p.m.- Showtime Cloggers
4:35 p.m.- Infield
9 p.m. – 1 a.m. – Country Western Dance sponsored by the Hendry County CattleWomen’s Association, LaBelle Civic Center, 481 W. Hickpochee Ave. (SR 80)/ Admission $20.
Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016
9:00 a.m.- Dave Randant
10:00 a.m.- Press On
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. -Lynette White
2:15 p.m.- 64 to Grayson
3:15 p.m.- Infield
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.
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
Find a campground near LaBelle
Whisper Creek RV Resort, Labelle
The Glades RV Resort, Labelle
Upriver RV Resort, Fort Myers
Seminole Campground, Fort Myers
Check out this light-hearted documentary video about the festival:
NOTE: Florida Rambler is not associated with the festival nor do we sell or know where you can buy swamp cabbage, although you can find it in many supermarkets labelled “Hearts of Palm.”