The three-day weekend has arrived! While relaxation and backyard barbecues are on the agenda for many folks this Labor Day, the holiday weekend offers some interesting options for Southwest Floridians, from exploring the Everglades to playing tug-of-war in the mud.
Bottomless Mud Pit Tug-O-War and Toilet Seat Horseshoes are among the wacky events of the Redneck Games at the second annual Lee County Family Festival in North Fort Myers.
In planning this festival of “good-natured foolishness,” the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce has taken its inspiration from Jeff Foxworthy’s description of “Redneck” as “a glorious absence of sophistication,” said Chris Jackson, the chamber’s executive director.
The festival’s signature event is the Redneck Six-tathlon, featuring head-to-head competition in tire rolling, hanging out the laundry, eating a SPAM-wich and tossing the remote. The first to ring the dinner bell wins.
“I’m not going to say exactly what the dinner bell is, but it involves a hubcap and a fly swatter,” Jackson said.
Festival goers also will have a chance to show off their redneck style in the Best Mullet Contest (hair, not fish). New this year, the Manly-Man Mattress Toss and Bobbing for Pigs Feet will be added to the Games, which also include corn hole, backyard bowling and watermelon relays.
“The bobbing for frozen pigs feet contest is getting a lot of buzz,” Jackson noted.
The Calendar Girls will be among the live entertainment throughout the day. The over-50 dancing troupe will be hosting “Daisy Duke’s Tailgate Party.”
“Last year, they did a salute to SPAM, which was very moving,” joked Jackson.
Festival food and beer will be available at this low-cost, family-friendly event, which is being held at the North Fort Myers Drive-in and Flea Market, which Jackson notes is “thematically appropriate.”
Admission is $3, and the festival benefits the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and Bridge Youth Center.
“We’re all about the family friendly pricing and family friendly content,” Jackson said. “The Games take place all day long, and there’s no charge for them. I think we can all claim a little bit of redneck in us.”
LEE COUNTY LABOR DAY FAMILY FESTIVAL AND REDNECK GAMES
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2
Where: North Fort Myers Drive-in and Flea Market, 2521 U.S. 41 N.
Tickets: $3 per person, free parking, kids 5 and under free
Event schedule: www.leecountyfamfest.com
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If mucking in a manmade mud pit doesn’t sound appealing, photographer Clyde Butcher offers a completely different type of mucking at his gallery in Big Cypress. While the artist traditionally hosts a Labor Day Muck-About on his scenic property, this year he will be offering a different experience.
Butcher and his wife, Niki, will be hosting an open house and lecture, unveiling 10 new photos from their recent anniversary trip “Across the West.” The couple spent about five months exploring nature’s beauty at national parks, including Zion, Sequoia River, Glacier and Yosemite.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Big Cypress Gallery. Although the Butchers won’t be leading tours through the swamp this time, they will be opening their 13-acre property for exploration.
“It’s one of the prettiest properties in the Everglades,” Clyde Butcher remarked. “We like to get people out in the swamp. A lot of people in Naples and Marco don’t go out and see how beautiful it is in Big Cypress. People need to experience it to understand how great it is.”
The Butchers will be hosting a Muck About over President’s Day weekend in February instead of Labor Day this year due to wet conditions and a large number of nesting alligators, Clyde Butcher noted. He will be lecturing on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and expects to see many of his faithful fans, who have followed on his adventures on Facebook.
Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo
Outdoor enthusiasts also might like to spend their holiday weekend traversing the inlets and waterways on a kayak of Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP).
“SUP seems to be the new trend right now,” said Brandon Greer, owner of Sweetwater Paddle Sports on Bonita’s Back Bay. “It’s extremely easy to learn, and they’re so light compared to a kayak.”
He anticipates heavy rental demand for Labor Day weekend and suggests people call ahead to make SUP reservations. Sweetwater charges $25 for the first hour and $10/hour thereafter for launching onto Back Bay from the shop. They also deliver paddle boards and kayaks to Lovers Key and Bonita Beach for $65 a day, or $50 for two hours.
Local state parks, including Lovers Key, Delnor-Wiggins Pass, Collier-Seminole and Koreshan State Historic Site, offer countless opportunities for Labor Day activities. Relax while soaking up the rays at the beach, find a shady spot for a family picnic or trek through the tropical forest.
The beaches at Delnor-Wiggins and Clam Pass have been rated among the best on Florida’s Gulf Coast by “Dr. Beach” (Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor and director of Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University). He also gives a nod to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, which he calls “two of the loveliest barrier islands in the country.”
BIG CYPRESS GALLERY ANNUAL LABOR DAY WEEKEND OPEN HOUSE
When: Saturday, Aug. 31 through Monday, Sept. 2
Where: Clyde and Niki Butcher’s Swamp Cottage, 52388 Tamiami Trail, Ochopee
Tickets: $50, includes one-hour lecture/Powerpoint, snack, story booklet and $25 gift certificate to use in the gallery (gallery viewing and book signing are free)
Info & Reservations: www.clydebutchersbigcypressgallery.com
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Local resorts are expecting a full house this Labor Day weekend, with many locals and “regional tourists” driving less than three hours for a getaway close to home.
The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point is planning a weekend of festivity with water slide races, splash contests, limbo dancing and “Fast Pitch” timed by a speedometer.
“We’re calling it ‘Going Coconuts,’ and our recreational team is pulling out all the stops,” said Public Relations manager Patricia George.
The Hyatt is running a “stay three nights, get one free” promotion for those wanting to stay all weekend. Steel drums will be playing poolside, and activities will be going from noon to 4 p.m. each day.
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Sport enthusiasts might like to catch a Miracle Baseball game on Sunday against the Bradenton Marauders. The Family Fun Pack includes four game tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas and a program for $25. Families are invited to play catch on the field before the game and sprint the bases after it’s over.
Golfers are invited to support the families of wounded warriors this weekend as part of Tiburón Golf Club. Tiburón is one of many clubs participating in this national event supporting Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships to children and spouses of military personnel disabled or killed while serving.
Tiburón will be holding “closest-to-the-pin” contests daily from Friday to Monday with an entry fee of $10. A Flag Day Competition will be Saturday, and daily drawings will be held for Tiburón gift cards and services. The golf club also will be honoring active, reserve and retired military personnel with discounted golf all weekend.
PATRIOT GOLF AT TIBURON GOLF CLUB
When:Friday, Aug. 30-Monday, Sept. 2
Where: Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz Carlton Naples
Golf: Active, reserve and veteran military personnel golf for $42 and get 20 percent discount in the pro shop. Special contests and drawings throughout the weekend raise money for the Folds of Honor Foundation.
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Avid shoppers also look forward to Labor Day, with many local shopping centers hosting sidewalk sales. Promotions will be running all weekend at Miromar Outlets, Village at Venetian Bay and Fifth Avenue South.
Labor Day also is a good time to take the family to the zoo. Kids will be admitted free at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens with paid adult admission. Find the coupon online at www.napleszoo.com.