This last weekend I attended the Florida State Fair in Tampa. Specifically, I was invited by the Florida Cracker Country Store to exhibit my Florida based books and speak to fair-goers about the history and folklore contained in them. What a great opportunity! I enjoyed getting a chance to introduce myself to so many interesting people. Below are pictures taken at the “Cracker Village.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Florida history, let me explain just a bit. Florida’s history is one which rivals the American West. Its earliest lively-hood was earned through a “cow economy” and Florida was, and is, one of the leading beef producing states. The early Spanish colonists came looking for Eldorado and most left when gold wasn’t to be found. When the majority went, they left their herds of cattle behind. Cattle did what cattle do…make more cattle. They did that for more than 200 years. Florida’s residents in the 1800s discovered this resource waiting to be rounded up and sold. The “gold” in Florida wasn’t panned, it was roped and branded.
What came with these early settlers was a rugged wild life that spanned almost a hundred years and was as chaotic as the aptly named “Wild West.” There were Indian Wars, epidemics of lawlessness, impacts from the Civil War and huge and desperate struggles against the forces of nature. The proud Seminole nation is alone in being the only American Indian tribe that never signed a final treaty subjugating them. For example, most folks have heard of the lawless blood feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Few know about the Barbers and the Mizells whose murderous quarrels claimed many more lives in the Orlando area.
The “Cracker Village” at Florida’s State Fair gives those visiting a chance to experience a little of what those times and people were like. The Fair will be held through this coming weekend, February 17th. If you’re anywhere near Tampa pay it a visit. It’s a great chance to experience a wide segment of the state’s history. And, if you want to read a little about it, pick up one of my novels at the Cracker Country Store.