2016 Big Cypress Swamp Heritage Festival

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Learn about plans for 2017

The 6th annual Big Cypress Swamp Heritage Festival was held Saturday, December, 3 2016. This Free family-friendly event shined a spotlight upon the inhabitants of South Florida, whose rugged strength and pioneering spirit contributed to the shaping of today's unique and diverse culture. These unique chapters in American history add to the rich and colorful tableau that comprises our shared past and present.


Auditorium Presentations
These multimedia presentations will be held in the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center Auditorium. The venue can hold approximately 80 people. This year, due to the popularity of programs in the past, free tickets will be required.

Advanced ticketing for auditorium presentations is closed at this time. Space may be available the day of the event. Tickets are not required for campfire presentations and music venue.

2016 SHF Main Presenters
Join our main presenters - Rick Smith, Clyde Butcher and Franklin Adams as they share their stories and connections to the Big Cypress.

11:00 to 12:30 and 3:00 to 4:30
Patrick Smith's Florida is a Land Remembered. Presented by Rick Smith.
Few if any books have captured the spirit and colorful history of Florida's past as has Patrick Smith's beloved novel, A Land Remembered. It has been said many times that people should be issued a copy of A Land Remembered when they cross the Florida state line. It shows you the real Florida, not the vacation destination so many people think of it as.

Audiences all over Florida have raved about Rick Smith's show about his father, Patrick D. Smith, and his beloved books. It isn't a stuffy "lecture" or a "talk." It's a visual storytelling and it's a fun, fast-paced and entertaining "show!"

12:30 to 1:30
Going to the Glades, Going to the Cypress.
Presented by Franklin Adams.
Join long time Gladesman and conservationist Franklin Adams as he shares remembrances of a lifetime of exploration and adventure in the Big Cypress and Greater Everglades. In his words, "There is a sense of freedom. You have to experience it. Being part of nature is a rare thing." He will share magical tales of the people and places he connected to during his time out in the swamp.

1:45 to 2:45
A Picture Worth 1,000 Words.
Presented by Clyde Butcher.
Through his large format photography Clyde Butcher has been capturing and sharing the beauty, textures and forms of the landscape of Florida for thirty years. He will share stories of his adventures through the swamps, rivers and mangroves that make Florida the unique sub-tropical paradise he calls home. This keynote presentation is the story of his great adventure.


Campfire Presentations
These intimate conversations and stories are shared around the campfire on the east end of the main exhibitor tent. Presenters share their connection to the Big Cypress, the natural and cultural stories of south Florida and nature in general. Free tickets are recommended.

Cesar Becerra
Cesar Becerra

Photo credit Michelle Tricca

11:30 to 12:15
Giants of the Swamp: The Story of Logging in the Big Cypress.
Presented by historian and Everglades evangelist Cesar Becerra.
What happened to the giant cypress trees of south Florida? Cesar Becerra documents the big logging boom of the mid-20th century in Florida. When most of America had switched to chainsaws, the loggers of south Florida were doing things the old fashioned way;cross cut saws, steam powered mills and locomotives and raw sweat as they took down the last of the giant Cypress and Pine Trees in the Southern United States. In 1958 The Saturday Evening Post called the Big Cypress/Everglades logging operations the most dangerous job in America.
Author Marya Repko
Marya Repko

1:30 to 2:15
Angel of the Swamp, Deaconess Harriet Bedell in the Everglades
Presented by Marya Repko.
The Deaconess was an Episcopal missionary to Native Americans in Oklahoma, Alaska, and the Everglades. She came to Florida in 1933 where she remained active at the Glade Cross Mission until she was over 85 years old, assisting the Seminoles and Miccosukees to market their crafts. Bedell also touched the lives of local residents around Everglades City and in nearby Marco Island where she taught sewing and Sunday school. Join local author Marya Repko who, after retirement, moved to nearby Everglades City. Her first book, A Brief History of the Everglades City Area has sold thousands of copies.

Amy Bennett Williams
Amy Bennett Williams
2:30 to 3:15
Capturing the Magic of My Home
Presented by Amy Bennett Williams.
Though not originally from Florida Amy Bennett Williams now calls southwest Florida home. Through her heart felt essays Amy helps us discover the beauty and complexity of the places and people, both present and past that make up this special place many of us now call home.
Big Cypress Night Sky
Big Cypress Night Sky

Photo credit Aaron Umpierre

3:30 to 4:15 and 7:00 to 8:30
Starry, Starry Nights
Presented by Luke Gommerman.
Who knew?! The Big Cypress National Preserve has some of the darkest skies east of the Mississippi River, and it's located just an hour or so from approximately 6 million residents who live in the major urban centers of Florida's east and west coasts. While immersed in the city a person may only notice the glare of artificial light.Out in the Big Cypress you can be immersed in the Milky Way. Seasonal park ranger Luke Gommerman will be joined by partners from local astronomical societies and the International Dark-Sky Association, along with their equipment, to share the story of the importance of protecting the night. Join us for other night sky programs through the winter.
2016 SHF Music Presenters
J Robert, Cindy Hackney and Raiford Starke will share songs and stories of the Big Cypress at the Music Tent.

Songs of the Swamp.
10:00 to 2:00
Performed by J Robert, Cindy Hackney and Raiford Starke at the music and food tent. The performers have Florida in their veins and celebrate the importance of caring about this special place through song and story. J and his guests will share original award winning compositions which highlight today's environmental challenges facing south Florida. See more of J Robert's Florida Fiddler Show.

Enjoy the taste of south Florida and the Big Cypress provided by Camellia Street Grill of Everglades City.

Demonstrations and Exhibitors
10:00 to 4:30
A variety of demonstrator's and exhibitor's will be set up throughout the day. Discover more about the Miccosukee and Seminole;public land agencies and partners;organizations and eco-tour operators –all connected to the Big Cypress Swamp.
Joe Browder in Big Cypress
Joe Browder (c. 1970), a main advocate for protecting the Big Cypress was instrumental in building a grassroots coalition to save the swamp.
In Memoriam
This year's festival is dedicated to Joe Browder (April 10, 1938 –September 18, 2016), a staunch advocate for protecting natural areas in Florida and across the country. Joe was instrumental in the creation of both Big Cypress National Preserve and Biscayne National Monument, later designated as a National Park. It was through Joe's persistence that Marjory Stoneman Douglas started the Friends of the Everglades, an organization focused on stopping the development of the proposed Everglades Jetport. The completion of which would have had devastating effects to the Big Cypress.
Various logos of supporting organizations.

This festival provides a venue for individuals and groups with a deep connection to the Big Cypress Swamp an opportunity to share stories of the past and hopes for the future related to this special place. The views and opinions of exhibitors and presenters are not necessarily those of the National Park Service.

This event is made possible through the support of the South Florida National Parks Trust, the Everglades Association and other generous supporters.

Last updated: September 1, 2017

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33100 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, FL 34141


(239) 695-2000

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