Scenic USA - Florida
|Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
More than one theory is tossed around about the origin of the term cracker, but in Central Florida, cattle ranchers were more likely to be proud, rather than insulted by the name. Using a braided leather bullwhip during round-up, the word cracker was often used to describe these hard working cattlemen. And lacking in traditional frosty weather, a Florida Christmas for these ranch families was an unusual holiday by northern-country standards.
As the Second Seminole War escalated across Florida in 1835, U.S. Army orders were issued to build a string of over 200 forts to garrison men and supplies in an effort to supress the Seminole Indians. As the army arrived in central Florida on Christmas Day, 1837, the stockade was aptly christened Fort Christmas. Today, the replica fort and museum is the centerpiece of Fort Christmas Historical Park.
Here at the Orange County Fort Christmas Park, a 38 year old tradition continues with its Cracker Christmas gathering during the first weekend in December. The event consists of a huge craft fair, pioneer demonstrations, Civil War artifact displays, antique cars, engines, and tractors, plus plenty of delicious food. Southern festival foods include pull-pork sandwiches, gator tail, boiled peanuts, swamp cabbage and a wide variety of scrumptious baked goods. Fair goers line up early to get their Christmas cards hand stamped by postal workers with an official Christmas, Florida post-mark.
Pioneer demonstrations include hide tanning, broom making, spinning, quilting, wood carving, blacksmithing, and sugarcane mill operations.
In addition to the park's full scale replica of the 19th century fort, seven restored cracker era buildings are open for tours. These pioneer homes and a school building are furnished with period furniture, appliances, kitchen items and hand tools. A few of these Florida cracker homes included the Beehead Ranch house, the Taylor Creek Yates home, and the 1916 Union Schoolhouse. This family friendly event is extremely popular, one of Central Florida's most interesting traditional gatherings.
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