For Hometown News
FORT PIERCE -- Whips will be cracking and horses will be prancing as the Florida Cracker Trail Riders, nearly 170 strong and not yet including horses, mules and wagons, will parade on horseback through downtown Fort Pierce at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 23.
The parade celebrates the end of the 26th annual 120-mile trail ride commemorating Florida's settlers and their rugged cattle-raising heritage. The parade begins on the corner of North Indian River Drive and Seaway Drive, and travels south to the Traffic Circle, meanders through the Farmer's Market, turns west on Orange Avenue, turns back north on Indian River Drive and finally commences at Cobb's Landing by the traffic roundabout on N. Indian River Drive.
Following the Civil War, a rugged brand of individuals settled along Florida's east coast and central flatlands. They scratched out a living raising cattle, pigs, vegetables and fishing. These early settlers became known as Florida Crackers, a reference to the cracking sound made by the braided, leather whips they used to drive their cattle rather than a food preference or a particular philosophy.
Fort Pierce's historic P.P. Cobb Store figured prominently in the cattle drive. Each day, as the cattle massed west of town, Cobb's store ran 10 wagons, day and night, taking supplies out to the cattlemen and their herds as they prepared for the month-long journey. As they crossed the state they were faced with untold hardship. Thieves, snakes, swarms of mosquitoes, swamps and disease were just some of the challenges faced by the cowmen.
Once the cowmen survived the long and difficult journey to Punta Rassa, near present-day Bradenton, the cattle were sold to the Cubans who loaded them on ships and sailed south.
The Cracker Cowmen, their pockets bulging with gold doubloons, took their bounty back to Fort Pierce and the P.P. Cobb Store, where they purchased supplies and provisions for the coming year before returning to their isolated homesteads and their eagerly waiting families.
Following the Cracker Trail parade, the public is invited to join the riders to learn more about Florida history and this historic event by meeting the trail riders and learning about local history and the Florida Cracker Trail Association. Opportunities for children to get their picture taken with a horse or mule will be available. Of course, carrots and apple slices are always appreciated.
Visit crackertrail.org for more information.