Small Town Parades: Fort Myers. Labelle, and Swamp Cabbage

140215_0006Fort Myers has been hosting the Edison Festival of Light  in February for 76 years.  While there are many events such as “Mrs. Edison’s Hymn Sing,” a 5-K race, and a “Junior Parade” in the day time featuring children and their families, the major highlight every year is “The Grand Parade.”  The parade features lighted floats.  It is, after all, a parade honoring Thomas Edison who spent his winters for many years in Fort Myers.

140215_0008This year, there were over two hundred entries in the parade including the Budweiser Clydesdales.  An estimated 200,000 people lined the two-mile parade route for a parade that lasted about two hours.  Because it is at night, takes a long time and attracts both senior citizens and families, people want seats.  So as could only happen in a small town, people “reserve” their spots days in advance by marking them out with tape on the ground and leaving DSCN4184lawn chairs in their spots.  And it is a small town – the “reservations” are honored.

I have watched the parade before, but this year I walked the length of it with the Red Cross entry.  Across the nation, the Red Cross responds to a house fire on average every nine minutes.  Therefore, our local float had a “burning house” with a fireman, a Red Cross volunteer, and a family huddled under Red Cross blankets. 

DSCN4174As with most Red Cross activities, volunteers did it all.  It took first place in its category.  As we had been  away when much of the work was done (convenient), my own role was limited to some initial design suggestions and preparation, and when I returned, they asked me to put a face on the mini-emergency response vehicle.

The Edison Parade soon will no longer qualify as a small town DSCN4168parade, but for now it still retains amateur participation and crowd involvement. 

I love small town parades [See March and May 1012].  But for some reason in 18 years in Florida, we had never been to the Swamp Cabbage Festival.  Now if you lived in a big city, you might be turned off by the term “swamp cabbage” and might call it something like the

A parade star is born.

A parade star is born.

“Hearts of Palm Festival.”  But to the people of LaBelle, Florida, hearts of palm are and always have been swamp cabbage.

LaBelle is a town of just over 4000 people in Hendry County which has around 39,000 people.  It is on the Caloosahatchee River.  The river is connected by a canal to Lake Okeechobee and by another canal to the east coast of Florida and is part of the Intercostal Waterway.

Not just for swamps

Not just for swamps

It is really hot in Hendry County in the summer, but in the winter some really huge RV parks provide homes and social activities for many people of modest means from the North.  But the real industry of LaBelle is agriculture: particularly, cattle and citrus.  Florida “crackers” throughout history would be comfortable in LaBelle.

The festival features a parade, a rodeo, a bass fishing tournament, a 5-K race, a classic car show and lots of food and entertainment.  DSCN4182The parade was long for such a small town.  It seemed to feature everyone from the girl scouts to the Red Hat Ladies, from boy scouts to swamp buggies.

As part of a nation-wide reorganization of the Red Cross, Lee and Collier Counties on the coast were combined and added to the relatively sparsely-populated Hendry and Glades Counties.  As part DSCN4187of our effort to create a presence in those counties, we participated in the Swamp Cabbage Festival parade.

Our concession the theme was to decorate the float with palm fronds.  And as we were in the parade, my pictures once again are mostly taken in the preparation area.  However, I did shoot a few pictures through the windshield and outside the window of the Red

Posing with Scrubby

Posing with Scrubby

Cross van I was driving (I was thrilled to be asked to drive as my feet were still sore from the last parade.)

DSCN4195As always, Scrubby Bear, who teaches small children to wash their hands, was a big hit with kids and adults.

If you happen to notice a lot of Mexican faces in the crowd, remember this is citrus country.  Many people came to help Nearing the riverin the harvest, found it was a good place to live, and now are making contributions to the community in every field from the orchards to teaching. 

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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One Response to Small Town Parades: Fort Myers. Labelle, and Swamp Cabbage

  1. Loraine Beckman says:

    We like to watch parades and try to go to the one on 4th of July. It sure does pay to take lawn chairs or park where you can see very well… Thanks for the update and I like the picture of the raccoon and swamp cabbage. love to you all. LK&W

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