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10 Small Towns and Festivals

While the towns in my series "Small Towns... Big Surprises" host some impressive festivals, they also have other intrigues that make them appealing getaway destinations any time of the year.

 The following small towns open their quiet communities at least once a year for some pretty amazing (and unusual) festivals, but you won't find much for visitors any other time.

Florida Seafood Festival - November

Florida's oldest maritime exhibit, The Florida Seafood Festival, draws thousands to this small river port city at the mouth of the Apalachicola River. Delicious seafood and seafood related events and displays are offered in Battery Park in downtown Apalachicola. This is a family affair, with events for just about everyone – the 5,000 meter Red Fish Run, oyster eating and shucking contests, a parade, the King Retsyo Ball – plus plenty of delicious seafood to sample, numerous arts & crafts to complete your holiday shopping, and musical entertainment to enjoy.

Frog Leg Festival - January

Where in Florida is Fellemere? I had to look it up. It is located about 25 miles south of Melbourne, off of I-95. In 1990, members of the community of Fellsmere were looking for funding for children's recreational programs. They came up with the idea of selling frog leg dinners. I guess you could say the rest is history. The free annual Frog Leg Festival has turned into a major event attended by thousands and featuring with a midway, crafters and live entertainment. If frog legs don't exactly make your stomach hop with anticipation, then try the gator tails or some of the other more traditional culinary treats.

McIntosh 1890s Festival - October

Visitors to the McIntosh 1890s Festival is set among Victorian and Florida cracker homes and century-old live oak trees. Residents of the small town, located between Gainesville and Ocala, welcome visitors to the very popular arts and crafts festival dressed in 1890s clothing. Bring and blanket and a picnic lunch to enjoy the entertainment while the children romp in the park, or sample the delicacies of the many concession stands while you stroll the booths shopping for those on your holiday list.

Moore Haven
Big "O" Birding Festival - January

Situated on the western side of Lake Okeechobee, in the middle of the state, Moore Haven is in the perfect location to watch a variety of Florida's native birds. It isn't a surprise then that it would host the Big "O" Birding Festival. The festival features lectures, eco-tours and arts and crafts.

Ruskin Seafood Festival - November
Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival - May

Rural Ruskin rests on the Little Manatee River and is the southernmost community of SouthShore that stretches along Highway 41 and the shores of southeastern Tampa Bay. While residents enjoy fishing and boating throughout the year, twice a year they open their quiet town to some of Hillsborough County's largest community events — the Ruskin Seafood Festival and the Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival.

San Antonio
Rattlesnake Festival - October

Floridians in this small town, located just a few miles northeast of Tampa, have celebrated the rattlesnake for 40 years. The Rattlesnake Festival features the obvious snake shows along with gopher races, entertainment, food, and arts and crafts. Free parking, free admission and free entertainment make this a fun find for the family on a budget! (Expect a small admission charge to the "Snakes Alive" snake show.)

Florida Black Bear Festival - October

Black bears in Florida? You bet. Every year Umatilla hosts an annual festival to educate humans about these furry mammals that roam Florida's forests. The family-friendly Florida Black Bear Festival includes plenty of fun activities, presentations by environmentalists and field trips.

Central Florida Peanut Festival - October

Williston, a tiny farm community just outside Ocala, invites families to enjoy a day peanuty fun at the Central Florida Peanut Festival. It's a day of fun, food, games and entertainment featuring horse-drawn trolley rides, crafts and of course showcasing a large assortment of peanuts and peanut products.

Yulee Railroad Days - June

Much of Florida was built on the back of the early railroads with some towns owing their very existence to them. Yulee was just one small stop on the route of the historic cross-state florida Railroad and today is just one small town of several to celebrate Yulee Railroad Days that honors the great David Levy Yulee, Florida's first U.S. Senator. The linear festival features many events over a week of festivities stretching from Fernandina Beach on Florida's East Coast to Cedar Key on Florida's West Coast.

Sweet Corn Festival - May

This mostly rural Central Florida community located just 30 miles north of Orlando, hosts the annual Zellwood Sweet Corn Festival that has been Florida's corny tradition for more than 30 years. Every Memorial Day weekend, nationally recognized country entertainment combines with amusement rides, arts and crafts, and all the corn you can eat for a great festival for the entire family.
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