Swamp Cabbage Fest marks 53 years, Feb. 23-24, 2019

Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.
Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.

LaBelle — For 53 years, this authentic Florida town east of Fort Myers has been celebrating swamp cabbage in a down-home festival and parade.

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The Swamp Cabbage Festival takes place every year on the last weekend in February.

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.

The festival bills itself as “family festival with no alcoholic beverages” and organizers expect 30,000 to 50,000 people over festival weekend.

The festival is free and fills the city’s waterfront Barron Park,  North State Road 29 at the Caloosahatchee River.

2019 LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival tentative schedule

swamp cabbage festival sign

  • Parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in front of the Dollar General Market and ends on Bridge Street in front of the Catholic Church.
  • Heritage Boat Tours on Calosahatchee River will be offered both days. Advance tickets are encouraged.
  • Hendry County Cattlemen Association Annual Ranch Rodeo is held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 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. Details.
Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.
Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019

7 a.m. Humane Society’s Swamp Stomp, Farm Credit Plaza
8 a.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum, Barron Park Riverfront
10 a.m. Swamp Cabbage Parade – Park Ave. South down Bridge Street, ends at Catholic Church.
11 a.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum-Barron Park Riverfront
11:30 a.m. Swamp Cabbage – Park Activities Begin, Barron Park
11:30 a.m. Opening Prayer / National Anthem (Abby Green)
11:45 p.m. JJ McCoy, Barron Park
12:40 p.m. Queen & Princess Intro & Performance, Barron Park
12:50 p.m. Grand Marshall & Pioneer Family Intros, Barron Park
12:50 p.m. Parade Award Announced, Barron Park
1 p.m. Showtime Cloggers, Barron Park
1:30 p.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum, Barron Park Riverfront
1:45 p.m. Danzas Folcloricas Latinas , Barron Park
2 p.m. Shannon Reed Band, Barron Park
(North of the River)
2:45 p.m. Museum Boat Ride Raffle, Barron Park
3 p.m. Country Rhythm Cloggers, Barron Park
4 p.m. Swamp Cabbage Band, Barron Park
4 p.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum-Barron Park Riverfront
5:30 p.m. Entertainment ends, Barron Park Closes
7 p.m. Hendry County Cattlemen’s Rodeo-LaBelle Rodeo Grounds
9 p.m. Cattlewomen’s Dance , Shannon Reed Band LaBelle Civic Center (Till 1 a.m.)

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019    

6:30 a.m. Swamp Cabbage Festival Bass Tournament
Hendry County Boat Ramp (North of the River)
8 a.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum, Barron Park Riverfront
10 a.m. Press On –Barron Park Bandstand
10 a.m. BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) City of Palms Chapter — Starting at Lee Street from Park Ave. South
11 a.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum-Barron Park Riverfront
11 a.m. Walker Experience-Barron Park Bandstand
11:50 a.m. Queen and Princess Intro & Performances – Barron Park
Noon Sugar Lime Blue, Barron Park
1:00 pm Hendry County Cattlemen’s Youth Rodeo-LaBelle Rodeo Grounds
1 p.m. The Dance Company-Barron Park Bandstand
1:30 p.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum, Barron Park Riverfront
2 p.m.pm Hillary Klug (Fiddle/Clogger) – Barron Park
3 p.m. Fishing Tournament Weigh-in – Hendry County Boat Ramp (North of the River)
3 p.m. Christ Central Worship Team – Barron Park
4 p.m. River Cruise Heritage Museum-Barron Park Riverfront
4 p.m.Entertainment ends and Barron Park closes.


Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade
Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade

 

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).

Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.
Armadillo races at 2015 Swamp Cabbage Festival. Photo courtesy Pete Cross.

Places to explore near LaBelle and Fort Myers

 

Find a room near LaBelle

Port LaBelle Inn, LaBelle


Hotels near La Belle

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.”


15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Where is the car show located at this year. So enjoyed it over the years

    • Bonnie Gross

      Hi Carolina,

      The car show is not listed among festival events in 2019. I’m trying to reach event organizers to see if it is happening. At this point, it appears it is not.

  2. Avatar

    Hello, the Swamp Cabbage Festival Committee is so excited that our event is coming up so soon! We’d just like to make a few small corrections to your list of events if you don’t mind…
    The fishing tournament is on Saturday this year starting at The River’s Edge Motel (right next to the City Dock) @ 7am.
    Also, there a few more entertainment updates. If you anyone reading this comment would like yhto updated full list of events, please go to swampcabbagefestival.org
    Thank you and we hope to see you all there!!!

  3. Avatar

    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!

    • Bob Rountree

      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.

  4. Avatar
    Patricia Myers

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

    • Bob Rountree

      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.

  5. Avatar

    ANOTHER WONDERFUL RV PARK TO STAY IT IS PALM & PINES RV PARK IN FELDA. JUST 15 MILES SOUTH OF LABELLE ON HWY 29 S. THEY ALSO WELCOME TENT CAMPERS. PHONE IS 863-675-1595
    fb https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palm-Pines-RV-Park/119248004804461?ref=br_tf AND GENERAL WESITE IS http://www.palmandpinesrvpark.com/

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

  6. Avatar
    Gil Sullivan

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

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

  8. Avatar

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

    • Avatar

      My family has been supplying cabbage to different people and restaurants for years.If you would like to email me or call I would be glad to help you find the product that you are looking for. Email: tindalltime@gmail.com

      • Avatar

        Hi Lamar……Sure would love to get information on how I can purchase swamp cabbage from you.

        Thanks, Nancy

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