Suited up and ready to reenact the 2nd Seminole War at Billie's Swamp Safari — Photo courtesy of Florida Seminole Tourism
Tomahawks, bows and arrows, alligators and Indian lure; it’s all part of The Big Cypress Shoot Out in South Florida, going back to the pioneer days and the 2nd Seminole War. This year's festivities kick off on January 23.
There were three wars in the 1800’s, between the US military and the Seminoles, the bloodiest of all of the American Indian wars. Most of the Seminoles were relocated to Oklahoma, but more than 3000 survived in the Sunshine State and were gradually pushed into the Everglades. Seminole Indians ready for battle in the Big Cypress Shoot Out — Photo courtesy of Florida Seminole Tourism
At the beginning of each year, descendants of the tribe gather at Billie’s Swamp Safari for a weekend of cultural celebration and the signature war reenactment. Participants don authentic attire and weapons, engaging in traditional battle tactics. While the battles are the highlight of the festivities, attendees also enjoy Seminole food, music and dancing, along with pioneer artisans. Other entertainment includes thrilling alligator wrestling, tomahawk throws, archery competitions and breath taking venomous snake shows. You can even check out how the soldiers lived in replica camps. Recreating a typical soldier camp of the 2nd Seminole War — Photo courtesy of Florida Seminole Tourism
The Shoot Out takes place at Billie's Swamp Safari in the Florida Everglades, a remote location off of "Alligator Alley" or I-75 , half way between Naples and Fort Lauderdale. Several options for lodging on the “gulf side” of the state (Gulf of Mexico) are within an hour’s drive of the festivities.
The closest is the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City, where you’ll step back in time yet again; this time into “Old Florida”. Situated on the Baron River, on the edge of Everglades National Park, guests relax on an expansive waterfront porch, surrounded by native plants and wildlife. Taxidermy is alive and well at the lodge, you’ll see fish, deer and even gator skins on the walls. Opt for a fishing trip while staying here and chefs will prepare your fresh catch for dinner.
If you still want a tropical setting, but desire to sleep a little closer to civilization-proper, try the Hemingway House of Marco Island. This quant Bed and Breakfast is also on the water, with spacious rooms full of antiques. Enjoy your continental breakfast poolside, upon request.
Prefer more upscale accommodations? Then The Inn on Fifth in Naples is surely your cup of tea. Luxurious and trendy, the inn underwent an eighteen million dollar expansion project in 2012 that includes Club Level Suites with 24-hour concierge service and afternoon tea, among other amenities. The boutique hotel is in the heart of popular shops, galleries and restaurants, and within walking distance to the beach. The luxurious Inn on Fifth in the heart of downtown Naples — Photo courtesy of The Inn on Fifth
The 2014 shoot out opens Friday, January 31st, but the battles don't begin until Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for kids twelve and under.
While the Shoot Out is the biggest tribal event in January, another popular Seminole party takes place the weekend prior: The Big Cypress 118 Anniversary Celebration. In 1896 the Bureau of Indian Affairs purchased the first tract of land in the Everglades for the Seminoles. As more land was added, it became known as the Big Cypress Reservation, now home to these cultural gatherings.
The anniversary party kicks off with a rodeo on January 23rd, other weekend events include a BBQ cook-off, a concert by Country music star Alan Jackson, “Critter Shows” and of course more ALLIGATOR WRESTLING to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Alligator Wrestling is a signature event at Seminole celebrations in the Big Cypress — Photo courtesy of Billie's Swamp Safari