Chalo Nitka Rodeo and Festival kicks off March 6

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
MOORE HAVEN — The Chalo Nitka Queen and her court will reign over the 72nd annual Chalo Nitka Festival and Rodeo March 6 and 7 in Moore Haven. Pictured left to right are Flor Rosas, Kerri Hines, Miss Congeniality Rylie Patterson, 2020 Chalo Nitka Queen Zorian Tullock, first runner-up Sierra Hart, second runner-up Makayla Strenth, third runner-up Madison Corwin and Ariefaith Dunkley.

MOORE HAVEN — Originally begun as a celebration of the newly “tarred” Main Street in Moore Haven, the first Chalo Nitka Festival was celebrated in 1949.

Chalo Nitka is Seminole for “Day of the Big Bass,” Chalo Nitka Committee member Tracy Whirls said.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
MOORE HAVEN — The 2020 Chalo Nitka Junior Miss and her court were crowned during the annual pageant held at the Moore Haven Middle High School Auditorium Feb. 1. Pictured left to right are, Juliann Sisk, Anniston Ball, 2020 Junior Miss and Miss Congeniality Carmen Perez, first runner-up Emily Branch and 2019 Junior Miss Madilyn Collier.

“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.

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.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
MOORE HAVEN — The Chalo Nitka Rodeo is a ranch rodeo, made up of teams of competitors from ranches around Lake Okeechobee and elsewhere.

It also features the Chalo Nitka Ranch Rodeo, which kicks off Friday, March 6, and continues following the festival itself Saturday, March 7. Rodeo action, featuring bull riding, barrel racing and the wild cow milkin’ contest, begins nightly at 7.

The Chalo Nitka ranch rodeo became an annual part of the Chalo Nitka Festival in the ’70s, beginning as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, organized by a stock contractor from Arcadia.

By 1989, Glades Youth Livestock was organizing the annual event, which featured professional cowboys from around the country. The large number of individual entries became too much to manage, so the rodeo became a Frontier Days rodeo, allowing individuals to compete in events like the trailer race, team and ribbon roping, with women allowed to compete with the men, and the grand prize was a saddle.

Today, the Chalo Nitka Rodeo is a ranch rodeo, made up of teams of competitors from ranches around Lake Okeechobee and elsewhere.

Any team from around the state can enter the Chalo Nitka event, which is a qualifying rodeo for the Florida Cattleman’s Association state finals held in Kissimmee in September.

Conducted as a fundraiser for Glades Youth Livestock, the Chalo Nitka Rodeo is considered among the toughest ranch rodeos in the state.

“The word is if you can win Chalo Nitka, you can win any of them,” Ms. Whirls said.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Glades County Teacher of the Year 2018 and Florida Teacher of the Year 2019 Joy Prescott, who has served as a fourth-grade math teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School at Brighton since 2014, is grand marshal of the 72nd Chalo Nitka Festival.

Glades County Teacher of the Year 2018 and Florida Teacher of the Year 2019 Joy Prescott, who has served as a fourth-grade math teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School at Brighton since 2014, is the grand marshal of the 72nd Chalo Nitka Festival.

This year the festival and rodeo kicks off with the Chalo Nitka River Run-Walk Saturday, March 7, at 7:30 a.m.

The race will start and end at Tom Perry Memorial Park, 299 Riverside Drive, Moore Haven, FL 33471.

Sign-ups are at 7 a.m. with the run/walk set to begin at 7:30 a.m. Pre-registration is $25, while Race Day Registration is $30.

You can register in person at the Glades County EDC Office, 998 U.S. 27, until 4 p.m. March 4.

Proceeds benefit the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. For more information, phone 863-946-0300. For a registration form, email info@gladescountyedc.com
Registrants will receive a Chalo Nitka Run/Walk T-shirt and can get in free at the Chalo Nitka grounds if they’re wearing their shirts.

After the race, join Project Graduation at Moore Haven Elementary from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. for the traditional pancake breakfast.

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 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 clogging to a snake show at 1 p.m., and alligator wrestling at 3 p.m. will continue throughout the day.

The Midway is expected to be bigger and better than ever, opening earlier and staying open later. Tickets to exchange for ride bands at the festival are available at the Glades County EDC office, 998 U.S. 27, Moore Haven, for $20 for one day, or $30 for a multiple-day pass. The midway will open at 5 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and remain open until midnight Saturday night.

For more information, visit chalonitka.com or call 863-946-0300.

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