Battle of Okeechobee (FL) Re-Enactment Feb. 6 & 7, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

January 26, 2010

The Commemoration of the largest and fiercest battle in the Seminole Wars fought on Christmas Day 1837. Battle Re-Enactment Times: Sat. 6th @ 2 pm; Sun. 7th @ 1 p.m. Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park event

Presentation of Colors, Veterans’ Honor Song, Narration of Battle Okeechobee, Seminole and other exhibitors, Alligator Demonstrations, Artisians, Story Telling, Raffles including Seminole Jacket, Horse rides, 1800’s Medicine Show, Living History, Blacksmith, Cracker Cow Camp, Cannon Demonstration, Music, Fun, Food & more. 3500 S.E. 38th Ave., Okeechobee, FL  34974.


Goin’ Fishin’ in South Central Florida’s Freshwater Frontier: Casting about the counties of Glades, Hardee, Highlands & Okeechobee – Media FAM Tour

January 26, 2010

Goin’ Fishin’ in South Central Florida’s Freshwater Frontier: Casting about the Counties of Glades, Hardee, Highlands & Okeechobee. A Media FAM Tour Itinerary.

Arrangements by the good folks of Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee Counties. Specific names and details located within itinerary. This project received financial assistance from Enterprise Florida and The Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development.

Monday’s Destination: Sebring, Florida

From Miami, access US Hwy 27 North from I-75. When you arrive in South Bay, know that you’ve entered Florida’s Freshwater Frontier. Stay on US HWY 27 North thru Clewiston in Hendry County and Moore Haven in Glades County. Plan on stopping in Palmdale to visit Patty Register at Gatorama. If you can, try to catch their last show of the day at 3:45 pm. The park closed at 5 p.m. daily.

Per their web site: “Patty and Allen Register are the owners of Gatorama, a historic roadside tourist attraction exhibiting the largest collection of large alligators and crocs anywhere! As pioneers in the alligator industry they are a sixth generation cracker family living on the edge of civilization.  They share their corner of the ‘Glades and the story of the most successful sustainable use model in the world for the recovery of an endangered species with visitors to their park everyday.  They were the first producer to ship farm raised alligator tail and ribs on the World Wide Web. Gatorama exports raw materials (hides) and sells raw, finished, and value added products to wholesalers and consumers.” Phone # 863-675-0623

After spending some quality time with Patty and Allen and a few hundred alligators, continue north on Hwy 27 to Sebring in Highlands County.

Make your way to Sebring Lakeside Golf Resort Inn & Tea Room for a 2-night stay. From Hwy 27, turn right at the light onto the Sebring Parkway. At this traffic light, Wal-Mart and Schumacher Rd. is on your left and Sebring Parkway is to the right. Continue on Sebring Parkway approximately ¾ of 1 mile. Watch on the north side (left as you head east) for the bright, LCD sign. At the next road (Eastview) turn left. At the first intersection, cross Sunset onto Northwood following the golf course on your left for one block. Northwood dead-ends at the Inn & Tea Room on Lake Sebring Drive.

Sebring Lakeside Golf Resort Inn & Tea Room, 600 Lake Sebring Dr.,

Meet Mark & Maria Baker, proprietors. Phone # 863-385-7113. They are a lovely couple and very knowledgeable about this historic property. Plan on spending some time visiting with them once you get settled in your room.

For dinner, we suggest Chicane’s in Sebring at Inn on the Lakes. Christine Hatfield, proprietor. Be comfortable but not too casual. It’s the only place this week where you can be a bit dressier if you prefer. But hey, it’s still Florida so you do not need a neck tie. (863) 471-9400.

For additional information about Highlands County tourism, contact John Scherlacher, Director of the Highlands County CVB: 863-386-1316

Tuesday: Explore Highlands County

Fishin’ on Lake Istokpoga with Don Hatcher, of Don Hatcher Fishing  863-655-0265 office, 863-214-1740 cell.  Don will meet you at 6:45 a.m. the dock at Istokpoga Park on SR 98 past Spring Lake and Arbuckle Creek, but before Lorida.

Prior to meeting Don, enjoy a hearty breakfast at Dee’s Place Restaurant in Historic Downtown Sebring, 138 North Ridgewood Drive. 863-471-2228. Dee’s Place opens at 5:00 a.m.

After the fishing trip, lunch is served back at the Sebring Lakeside Golf Resort Inn & Tea Room. Tea Room hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Golfing? Make 2 p.m. Tee-Times at Deer Run Golf Course in Sun N Lakes Country Club of Sebring.  From Sebring Lakeside, turn right onto the Parkway, and then turn right onto Hwy 27 North. Turn left at the very next light onto Sun N Lakes Blvd. The clubhouse is located about a mile past Florida Hospital on the left side of the road. Clubhouse Phone: 863-385-4830.

Tuesday evening you are own your own to relax back at the Sebring Lakeside Golf Resort Inn & Tea Room. However, if you want a wonderful, authentic Mexican meal in, check out Taqueria Merlo, 1004 W Main St, Avon Park, FL 33825. Phone 863-452-1811.

Wednesday: Fishin’ in Hardee County

For breakfast, drive to Zolfo Springs via the back road through Highlands Hammock State Park to Pioneer Restaurant, located at the corner of Highway 17 and 64.

 US-27 S

 Turn Right on HAMMOCK RD (CR-634) – go 8.113.0 mile.  Along the way, you’ll enter Highlands Hammock State Park. Stop at the guard house at the park’s entrance and tell them you’re going thru to the county road. Follow the signs to turn right onto the county road. It’s a white, dirt road. Drive slowly, and you might see deer or other wildlife. Stay on the county road until it becomes pavement and you come to a 4-way paved intersection.

 Bear Right on PARNELL RD – go 1.82.9 mile

 Turn Left on STEVE ROBERTS SPECIAL ROAD (CR-636) – go 10.917.5 mile

 Turn Left on E SR-64 – go 0.91.4 mile

 Continue on FLORIDA CRACKER TRL (SR-64) – Cross over US HWY 17.

 Turn Left into the parking lot of Pioneer Restaurant.

2902 US Highway 17 S, Zolfo Springs, FL 33890, 863-735-0726

After breakfast Wednesday, follow SR 64 WEST a few hundred yards to Pioneer Park. Turn right into the Park and find the boat ramp. Enjoy fishin’ along the Peace River and take in the beautiful nature and history on display at the Park.  After a while, venture to Hardee Lakes (about a 20 minute drive north of the park). Try to be back on the road by 12 noon.

Your next destination Wednesday afternoon is Glades County. You’re going to have almost a 2.5 hour drive, so grab a quick bite on the road to tide you over till dinner.

Your goal is to be at the Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area Fort Center Trail near Lakeport by 3 pm. If you’re traveling via US HWY 27 S, almost at the town limits of Moore Haven, turn Left onto SR 78. Drive approx. 8.5 miles and turn Left onto Banana Grove Road, the entrance to Fort Center WMA. It’s a gravel road, and ends at a parking lot with kiosk and restrooms. Arrive by 3 p.m. if at all possible, to have time hike around before it gets dark. Office # 863-946-1194.

For additional information, contact Tracy Whirls, the Glades County TDC director. She has a new brochure & web site and some exciting stuff to tell you about how they are preparing for future growth in tourism in Glades County. Tracy’s office # is: (863) 946-0300.

When finished exploring, drive out and turn Left onto SR 78 and go a couple of miles. You’ll see Lakeport Motel on your Right just past the Marathon gas station. Don’t miss it. It sits back off the road. Check in and relax. Lakeport Motel doesn’t have a web site. But there’s a photo on Visit Glades web site:

The official address is SR 78 and CR 721, Lakeport, FL 33471 Phone: 863-946-2020.  Joanie is office manager, Bonnie, the proprietor. Bonnie’s office # is 863-946-0567.

At your leisure that evening, drive North on CR 721 into the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation. Explore and end up at the Seminole Casino for dinner at Josiah Restaurant. Signage is good on the Reservation.

For addition information, contact  Brian Zappatini, Director of Marketing of the Seminole Casino, 863-467-9998.

Thursday: Fishin’ on Lake Okeechobee

Fishing guide the morning will be Art Hodges of Moonshine Bay.

Art will pick you up from your breakfast spot. You’ll have already talked to him and arranged details of your fishing trip. Phone # is 863-946-0435.

Breakfast is available at the Country Side Café, located 2 miles south of the Lakeport Motel on the right hand side of the road. Look for a sign saying something about the best food on the lake. Brenda and Jim Weeks are the owners. Address: 12585 E State Road 78, Moore Haven, FL‎. Phone # is 863-946-1341‎.

After fishing with Art, return to the hotel to clean up and check out. Then, enjoy a lunch at the Duck Pub in Lakeport, in front of the Lakeport Motel. Owner Bonnie (same one from motel!) will welcome you for lunch.

After lunch, drive north on SR 78 North to Okeechobee County. Stop in and check out the Okee-Tantie Campground & Marina, 10430 State Road 78 W, Okeechobee, FL 34974. From the Duck Pub, turn right onto SR 78 and go approx. 8 miles. The Campground is on the right after you cross over the Kissimmee River.

Ask for directions to meet up with Jason for an airboat ride from Okeechobee Airboat Tours. For more information, contact Kathy Scott, with the Okeechobee County Tourism Development Council: 863-763-3959, 800-871-4403,

Following the airboat ride, plan to visit Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center & Butterfly Gardens. Great photo opportunities. Located at 14895 N.W. 30th Terrace Okeechobee FL 34972. Take US Hwy 441 north out of the city of Okeechobee. Turn left onto Potter Road/68A. Turn left onto NW 30th Terrace. Look for the signs to Arnold’s. The earlier the better, and no later than 4 p.m. For more information, contact Sue Arnold.

After Arnold’s, enjoy dinner at Cowboy’s BBQ & Steak Company in Okeechobee. To get there from Arnold’s Drive back into the city on US Hwy 441South and you’ll see Cowboy’s on your right, less than 1 mile south of SR 70. Phone # 863-634-7220, 102 SW 14th St., Okeechobee. If owner Jim McCoin is there, ask him about their two new locations: one in Fort Pierce and one in Sebring.

Now that you’ve toured and explored a portion of four of the six counties of Florida’s Freshwater Frontier, enjoy your drive home and let your co-pilot in the passenger seats look at the Heritage and Cultural Travel guide to South Central Florida to plan your next vacation in Florida’s Freshwater Frontier!

Top 30 Southern States Bull Riders to compete in LaBelle, January 8 and 9

December 8, 2009

What do you get when you mix 30 of the top bull riders in the South, with the Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southwest Florida and bass fishing, a swamp safari, sky diving, golf, and country music in Hendry County? A long weekend of fun activities for the public and an opportunity to support a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill children receiving medical care at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida at HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers.
Hendry County Rodeo Grounds in LaBelle is hosting the SSBR 2009 National Finals and the 3rd Annual Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southwest Florida Rodeo on Friday and Saturday, January 8th & 9th and several great events are planned to give the public an opportunity to meet, greet and mix it up with the 30 top bull riders ranked in the Southern State Bull Riders association.
Thursday, January 7th: The public can participate in an SSBR Fishing Tournament on Lake Okeechobee at 9 a.m. in Clewiston at the Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina & Resort. After a day on the lake, kick back with the SSBR riders and listen to live country music performed free by Mickey Cash at the Marina’s Tiki Bar from 6-10 p.m.
Friday, January 8th: Start the day at Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation at 10 a.m. as riders and their fans explore Billie Swamp Safari until 2 p.m. Then, round up at the Hendry County Rodeo Grounds on SR 29 South in LaBelle for the 1st Round of the SSBR 2009 National Finals.
• Gates Open at 5:00 p.m. Bounce houses, games, food, and live country music preformed by Nashville recording artist KC Johns.
• Youth Rodeo from 6-7:30 p.m., which is open to participants under 18 only. Youth Rodeo events include Breakaway Roping, Team Penning, Buddy Pickup and Relay Race.
• Championship Bull Riding Main Event and 1st Round is from 8-10 p.m.
• After Party from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. hosted at the Rodeo Grill in LaBelle.
Saturday, January 9th: The thrills continue as fans and riders choose to either skydive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Skydive Air Adventures in Clewiston, or compete in a friendly golf tournament at The Glades Golf & RV Resort on SR 80 between LaBelle and US 27. Then, round up again at the Hendry County Rodeo Grounds on SR 29 South in LaBelle for the Final Round of the SSBR 2009 National Finals.
• Gates Open at 12 Noon. Bounce houses, games, food, and live country music preformed by Nashville recording artist KC Johns.
• Blazin Cans barrel racing and pole bending from 1-4:00 p.m.
• Ranch Rodeo, a Marki Rodeo Production, with 8 open events from 4-6:30 p.m.
• Championship Bull Riding Main Event and Final Round from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
• After Party to celebrate with the riders from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. hosted at the Rodeo Grill in LaBelle.
The SSBR 2009 National Finals will happen rain or shine. The Hendry County Rodeo Grounds have covered bleachers. General Admission is $10 for Friday and $10 for Saturday. All other events are fee-based, unless noted otherwise. For additional information, or to reserve tickets, call 863-885-1537 or visit the website at
The 3rd Annual Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southwest Florida Rodeo is sponsored in part by grants from Hendry County Tourist Development Council and VISITFLORIDA®. All proceeds from both nights will go to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southwest Florida.
Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Southwest Florida is recruiting volunteers for this event. If you would like to help, please call 239-437-0202.

FFF’s First Blog: Announcing ’09 Regional Tourism Summit

September 8, 2009

Are you working in or involved in starting or growing an attraction, event, place to stay, place to eat or activity to do in South Central Florida: DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, and Okeechobee counties, and the communities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Immokalee? Then Florida’s Freshwater Frontier invites you to attend a professional development tourism summit on Wednesday, September 16th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Lake Placid (FL) Camp and Conference Center.

Registration is now through Friday, September 11. The summit will focus on ways rural communities and businesses can partner together to strengthen the tourism industry in this region. Session topics will cover a wide array of issues which impact tourism including diversification, customer service, print and electronic marketing, social media (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs), new business opportunities, and leveraging dollars through grants and partnerships.

“We’ve planned a full day packed with presentations, interactive discussions and best practice sharing,” says Michelle Phillips, tourism coordinator for Florida’s Freshwater Frontier. “Our region’s tourism practitioners already know the importance of attracting visitors. This summit is providing a platform for learning best practices, hot tips to target today’s travelers and how to put tools and resources to best use, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.”

Registration fee of $25 per person includes beverages, a buffet lunch, dessert, training and materials. Contact Florida’s Freshwater Frontier to register by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 11. Call 863-385-7828, or 1-800-467-4540, or send email to The day includes time for networking, business card and brochure distribution, and door prizes.

Guest trainers include Sebring’s own Casey Wohl, published author of the Girls Getaway Guide series.  These city-specific travel guides for women provide information on where to eat, stay, shop and spa in various cities. She has been featured on several nationally-syndicated morning shows as a travel advisor, as well as in Woman’s Day and Parenting magazines. She has also served as a spokesperson for the Orlando & Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau and VISITFLORIDA.COM, was named a “Woman to Watch” by Orange Appeal Magazine and was listed as one of “101 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2009” by WE Magazine. She recently served as an online spokesperson for Dove Beauty, and is the owner of Gray Dog Communications in Sebring.

Erin Freel Best is the owner of her own marketing and communications firm that specializes in web design, video production and a host of other consulting services. Since its inception in 2000, The Market Place has more than 100 clients, primarily in Florida, but also maintains national accounts in Georgia, Texas and Minnesota. Erin Freel Best started her career as the marketing and promotions director for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, after graduating from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida.

Judi Durant, C.D.M.E., is the director of Visitor Services for the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB), also known to vacationers worldwide as The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Judi’s team is comprised of a Tourism Ambassador volunteer and staff corps that provide information to visitors and the traveling public. She oversees coordination of Team Tourism, the VCB’s year-round informational program to impart the latest information on market opportunities and travel trends to local tourism marketers. She is also responsible for the Guests First Customer Service Training Program and the Elaine McLaughlin Outstanding Hospitality Service Awards, known as the E Awards. Under her direction, Visitor Services also provides emergency assistance with airport and airline partners for travelers experiencing crises.

Judi brings years of experience in tourism training and outreach to the summit. She is a fourth generation Lee County native, a graduate of Edison State College and has also served as executive secretary and part time legislative aide to former State Representative J. Keith Arnold with the Florida House of Representatives. In 2002, Judi earned the accreditation of Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) through the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (IACVB), Purdue University, and the University of Calgary. The CDME program is recognized by the tourism industry as its highest educational achievement, with course work covering vision, leadership and business strategy implementation in preparation for increasing change and competition.

Sandra Friend is the former communications director for the Florida Trails Association. During her employ, Sandra conceptualized both the Florida Trail Gateway Communities program and the first-ever Florida Hiking Festival, held in White Springs in March 2008, and supported major hiking initiatives statewide via a variety of creative media. She holds a degree in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and puts her well-honed research, organizational, and information presentation skills to good use in the areas of web design and new media thru her business in Micanopy, Florida: Genuine Florida.

Representatives from the counties of Glades, Hardee, Hendry and Okeechobee will lead a discussion on new business opportunities in the tourism industry. Summit attendees are encouraged to share their tourism-related business start-up successes and vision for regional growth. John Scherlacher, the director of tourism for Highlands County Visitor and Convention Bureau is leading a presentation called Don’t just cry… it’s time to Diversify! A “no whine” approach to doing more with less in an ever-changing travel market.

If you a leader, owner, manager, director or staff person of an accommodation, retail operation, restaurant, attraction, golf course, public events, chamber of commerce, main street program, local government, airport, TDC/VCB, EDC, or other person involved in the tourism industry in South Central Florida, you do not want to miss this summit. For more information contact Florida’s Freshwater Frontier by calling 863-385-7828, or 1-800-467-4540, or sending a request by email to

Florida’s Freshwater Frontier, Inc. is the official tourism marketing corporation for the South Central Florida Region named FHREDI: Florida’s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative, Inc. Florida’s Freshwater Frontier supports regional tourism through advertising, promotions, public relations, new product development and visitor services programs. As a public/private enterprise, Florida’s Freshwater Frontier partners with six Counties: DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee; and the Communities of Belle Glade, Immokalee, Pahokee and South Bay.

To learn more about Florida’s Freshwater Frontier visit,