Hammocks named grand marshal of Chalo Nitka

MOORE HAVEN — Alan and Ardis Hammock have been named the grand marshals for the 2019 Chalo Nitka Festival and Parade. According to Glades County Economic Development Council Executive Director and Chalo Nitka Committee member Tracy Whirls, the Chalo Nitka Festival Committee voted to honor the Hammocks in recognition of their support for agriculture in Glades and Hendry County.

“For more than 40 years, Alan and Ardis have been excellent ambassadors for the Florida sugar industry, devoting countless hours to lobbying in Washington for sound sugar policy, making numerous public speaking and media appearances representing Glades sugar farming as the sugar industry battled environmental activists determined to put sugar farmers out of business.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Glades County EDC
Chalo Nitka grand marshals chosen
Alan and Ardis Hammock have been named the grand marshals for the 2019 Chalo Nitka Festival and Parade, set for Saturday, March 2, in Moore Haven, in recognition of their support for agriculture in Glades and Hendry County.

Mr. Hammock has been a member of the Florida Sugar Cane League and Everglades Agricultural Area Environmental Protection District for decades, while Mrs. Hammock has represented the Florida sugar industry on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee, which provides input on foreign trade agreements and their impact on domestic agribusinesses.

The Hammocks’ biography and photo appear in the 2019 Chalo Nitka program, which is available at the EDC office at 998 U.S. 27 S. (the old chamber building).
History of the festival

Set for March 1-2 in Moore Haven and originally begun as a celebration of the newly “tarred” Main Street (now Avenue J) in Moore Haven, the event was first celebrated in 1949 with the LaBelle, Pahokee, Belle Glade and Moore Haven high school bands and colorful floats leading a parade down Main Street.

Christened the Chalo Nitka Festival, which is Seminole for “Day of the Big Bass,” the festival became an annual event.

“In the early days, the festival itself featured a fishing tournament saluting the black bass and the Chalo Nitka Queen pageant, following the parade, with entertainment continuing into the evening,” Ms. Whirls, who researched the history of the festival for the 70th anniversary last year, said.

“Nowadays, the Big Bass Tournament occurs the last Saturday in February, while the Chalo Queen and other pageants are held in mid-February so the queen and her court can preside over the Glades Youth Livestock Shows and Sales, the parade and appear at the festival,” she continued.

While some elements of the event have evolved over time, the festival still includes a parade, arts and crafts and food booths and special exhibits by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, including alligator wrestling, Native American clothing contests, and arts and crafts exhibits.

“The Chalo Nitka Festival is really the Glades County ‘Fair,’ and like fairs in small towns across America, it features homemade food and arts and crafts, carnival rides and beauty queens, but with a special twist, celebrating Glades County’s traditional friendship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Ms. Whirls said.

Like other county fairs, the Chalo Nitka festival is actually the culminating event in a weeklong series of events centering on 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) students showing and selling their livestock, under the auspices of Glades Youth Livestock, which begins Monday, Feb. 25, with the PeeWee and Dairy Shows and concludes Thursday, Feb. 28, with the Pee Wee Parade and Livestock Auction.

The Chalo Nitka Ranch Rodeo kicks off in Moore Haven Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2. Rodeo action begins nightly at 7, featuring bull riding, barrel racing and the wild cow milkin’ contest. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 dollars for kids 6 to 12. For those 5 or younger, it’s free with a paid adult admission.

Pancakes and a parade
The 71st annual Chalo Nitka Festival slated for Saturday, March 1, traditionally begins with the pancake breakfast, sponsored by Project Graduation, at Moore Haven Elementary from 7:30 to 10 a.m.

At 10 a.m., the parade begins with line up on Riverside Drive, before winding its way up Avenue J to end near the Chalo Nitka Grounds. Glades County elected officials, dignitaries representing the Seminole Tribe of Florida, royalty from area festivals, including the Chalo Nitka Queen and her court, will participate in a range of conveyances, ranging from convertibles to swamp buggies, horses to ATVs, golf carts to boats.

Craft and food booths open at the Chalo Nitka grounds at 11 a.m., with opening ceremonies slated for 11:30. A variety of live entertainment, from alligator wrestling to clogging, are scheduled throughout the day.

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