The GREAT FLORIDA CATTLE DRIVE 2021
Nearly 500 years ago, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon brought the first cattle and horses to Florida’s shores in 1521. He attempted to settle in the land of the Calusa people around present-day Ft. Myers but was sent packing by those Florida natives who had no interest in any European neighbors. The livestock remained, however, and from that day the cattle industry has been important to Florida and Florida has been important to the cattle industry of the United States. Who could have known those Spanish cows and horses would lead to a lifestyle and traditions that would become recognized around the globe, and that the American Cowboy was born right here in the Sunshine State?
In 1995, the Florida Cow Culture Preservation Committee celebrated Florida’s 150th Birthday by driving 1,000 head of Cracker cattle about 100 miles through some of Florida’s most beautiful and historic ranchland. This event was recognized as the largest of the Sesquicentennial in our state. We have proposed, planned, prepared and presented a large cattle drive every 10 years since our first in 1995.
Our previous adventures have been front page news in dozens of countries and pretty much every major paper in the United States because the story we tell is interesting, educational, exciting and historic. In fact, Emmy Award-winning Live Oak Production Group filmed a documentary of our 2016 cattle drive which raked in awards from Key West to New York and was featured on PBS stations across the nation. We also had an informative and entertaining book written by Nic Stoltzfus which won its category in all literary competitions. This level of commitment to telling our story will inform and remind our friends just how strong and dedicated our pioneer ancestors had to be in order to build a life, a community and this state from scratch.
As the Quincentennial of the arrival of cattle in Florida approaches, we are planning a celebration like that first cattle drive hosted in 1995. In December 2021, we will begin our historic journey on the historic Deseret Ranch owned by the Mormon Church and home to the largest commercial cow herd in the United States. As in years past, we will partner with some of Florida’s outstanding leaders, organizations, ranches and businesses to tell the story right. As in years past, we plan to work closely with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Osceola County, the City of Kissimmee, and many others to bring this event to life.
We will present the Spanish cattle along with Cracker Cowboy poets, historians, singers, storytellers, artists, artisans and Ponce’s Herd of 7 throughout the Sunshine State. We will visit cities large and small for the entirety of 2021. Many communities such as St. Augustine, Tallahassee, Kissimmee, Orlando, Tampa, Okeechobee and Palm Coast are already on board. These gatherings will provide sponsors unlimited promotional opportunities to present their products and services to the thousands of attendees of this tour de force.
We hope you will agree with us that this unique and exciting adventure will capture the attention of millions of imaginations as it has in the past.