Highlands Hammock State Park and the Friends of Highlands Hammock will host the 28th annual Civilian Conservation Corps Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The park’s signature event, the CCC Festival has evolved into a celebration of history, nature, art, and music. Presentations on the CCC, wildlife, local history, heritage crafts, and Florida folk art are all planned. Local bluegrass band Back Porch Revival will set a toe-tapping pace as vendors finish setup. Park Manager Steven Dale will then officially open the festival at 10 a.m. with a welcome and the unveiling of Mountain Dan’s black bear and Florida panther chainsaw carvings in the picnic area.
CCC Museum curator Darrel Smith will mark the 80th anniversary of the CCC with his stories of the hard life of a 1936 CCC corpsman. Those will be presented in a series of stage performances beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the museum. Marjie Pollard, longtime Highlands Little Theatre actress, will take on a new role as conservation visionary Margaret Shippen Roebling. The two will remain in character throughout the day as they greet guests between performances.
Two unique Lake Placid residents, Greg Graziani and Hank Mattson, will be featured immediately following the opening ceremony. Graziani, known as “the Python Hunter,” will take the stage with some very large snakes in a “Snakes Alive!” talk. The Graziani reptile exhibit will continue all day inside the Hammock Inn. With a snap of his whip, Cracker Cowboy Poet Hank Mattson will recall the lives of those who worked cattle as turn of the century cowpunchers.
This year marks a return to the festival’s musical roots. Back Porch Revival musician John McClure recalls playing the very first CCC Festival when he rounded up three other folk and bluegrass groups to enliven the stage. Back Porch Revival will be followed by Wiregrass, with an original blend of bluegrass, folk, blues, western swing, and gypsy jazz. Up next will be Roadside Revue, whose influences include folk, bluegrass, blues, rock, country, and gospel. South Florida folk and modern day troubadour Grant Livingston catches audiences off guard with a sharp wit and wry commentary. His song on the python invasion of the Everglades is sure to amuse. The bands will be playing 45-minute sets all day.
Guest speaker Gary Monroe will give his Florida Humanities Council presentation “The Highwaymen: Florida’s African American Landscape Painters” at 1 p.m. in the park’s recreation hall. Highwaymen Mary Ann Carroll, Al Black, and Kelvin Hair will offer their paintings, together with Lisa Stone who will be exhibiting and selling vintage works and Monroe’s Highwaymen books.
The Friends of Highlands Hammock is also sponsoring a Junior Highwaymen art contest for participating Highlands County schools.
Antique cars dating from the late 1920s to 1949 will be found on the circle at the picnic and museum area. Traditional frame quilting will be demonstrated by the Highlands County Quilt Guild and an antique quilt display will be offered in the Hammock Inn.
Returning local arts and crafts vendors will be joined by new vendors from Tampa, Zephyrhills, Plant City, Englewood, Ft. Myers, Arcadia, and Ft. Pierce. Their wares will range from leather goods to landscape photographs.
Exhibitors include government agencies such as Forestry and Agriculture, nonprofit organizations such as Highlands County Audubon and the Florida Native Plant Society, and individuals including local historian John Skipper and hide tanner Doug Smith. Two local 4-H Clubs will exhibit small animals and club projects.
Food vendors will offer a variety of refreshments from barbecue to sweet treats.
In addition, there will be tram rides and hayrides through the state park. Events designed for children will include Promise Acres pony rides, an interactive Kid’s Corner will offer hopscotch, cat’s cradle, marbles, pickup sticks and other traditional games, and a series of storytelling sessions beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Admission to the CCC Festival is included in the state park entry fee of $6 per vehicle (up to 8 people).