If you need an excuse to visit the Crowley Nature Center — and you shouldn’t — this weekend is the sixth annual Southwest Florida Heritage Festival.
Attractions will include folk music, frontier arts and crafts and Civil War re-enactments.
Becky Harvey, a fourth-generation Miakka resident, will do some of the cracker cooking for the east Sarasota County festival. She grew up savoring her mother’s food, especially her biscuits.
“Oh, my gosh,” Harvey says. “My mom, she made her biscuits so perfectly. If there was a party or something, people would always ask her to make the biscuits.”
Lots of Big Red’s BBQ will be sold this weekend, along with limited amount of hog sausage and venison stew. There will be the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, along with carnival food like funnel cakes.
Heritage Festival organizers expect 3,000 visitors, everyone from naturalists to newcomers.
“People say, ‘Oh, I’ve lived here all my life, and never knew you guys were out here,” says Laney Poire, Crowley executive director. “We hear that all the time.”
This year’s Heritage Festival promises to the biggest yet, because the Crowley Nature Center is being joined by the Old Miakka United Methodist Church.
“Two different sites, same event,” says Charlotte Adams, festival coordinator for the church. “And I understand there will be things going on at the Old Miakka Schoolhouse, too.”
The church will offer music and food, along with picnic games and crafts for kids. There will be re-enactments of a frontier wedding, along with an old-time revival with a fiery preacher.
“We had to get a pulpit — not to put a Bible on, but to pound on,” Adams says, laughing. “I thought that was funny.”
Finally, local people will lead tours of the town cemetery, which has been in use since the 1870s. Notables buried in Miakka include Jasper Crowley — the farmer and schoolteacher who donated the land for the Crowley Nature Center.
All about heritage
Demonstrations at the Heritage Festival will include everything from weaving and whip cracking to blacksmithing and sugar cane grinding. Nature and history tours will be offered several times a day.
The half-mile Crowley boardwalk remains one of the best nature paths on the Golf Coast, ending at a two-story observation tower. The Nature Center sells a bumper sticker that says, “I break for Spanish moss.”
Local musicians at the Heritage Festival will include the Anderson Brothers and the Myakka Band. Many of the fair vendors are from eastern Sarasota County, too.
“Everyone who’s doing food is from Miakka,” says Poire. “We want people to come out and meet our people and learn our culture. We’re all about heritage. We’re all about celebrating the culture and rural tradition.”