Starts 3/23/2024, 09:00 AM
Ends 3/23/2024, 03:00 PM

The DeSoto County Historical Society’s 20th Annual Pioneer Day and BBQ showcases the history and heritage of southwest Florida from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat., March 23, 2024, at the Turner Agri-Civic Center, 2250 NE Roan St.,    with the Arcadia American Legion sponsored Antique Tractor and Hit & Miss Engine Show.

This year’s festival will commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Arcadia Tourist Camp, now the City Mobile Home Park.

In 2005, Mr. Harold McLeod suggested that the DeSoto County Historical Society have a “Pioneer Day” festival, and the Society held the first one on April 12 that year at the Tree of Knowledge Park. Under the leadership of President Jerald Newberry and Secretary Raynelle Newberry, the event featured demonstrations of old-time skills and crafts, musical entertainment and storytelling, Florida authors, historical displays, and a raffle. In 2007, it was moved to a larger venue–McSwain Park, across Oak Street from the DeSoto County Courthouse.  It then outgrew that site and moved to Veteran’s Park on State Road 70 in 2010.

In 2008, a caricature drawn by Luke Wilson of James Mitchell “Acrefoot” Johnson, a DeSoto County legend, became Pioneer Day’s official logo. At 6‘7” and 250 lbs., Johnson delivered the mail between Fort Ogden and Fort Meade by walking the 60-mile route in one day–twice a week. Tales about him abound–some fact and some fiction.

In 2010, team of emergency service personnel competed in a Barbecued Rib Cook-off, and although the Society has dispensed with the cook-off, the BBQ remains an integral part of the festival. Special and traditional Florida foods–such as the strawberry shortcake plus homemade jams jellies, and desserts—are available.

From 2010 to 2014, Pioneer Day was an official Florida Heritage Month event/ Since 2019, Pioneer Day has been the featured event of the John Morgan Ingraham House Museum for the Florida Department of State’s “March of Museums” (

Pioneer Day offers family fun of all kinds. A “Discover History” hands-on area is FREE and includes old-fashioned toys and games, cane pole fishing, washing clothes with a scrub board and wash pot, a pitcher pump, writing with a dip pen, orange juicing, and much more. Demonstrators also show off their skills in basket-weaving, blacksmithing, butter-churning, candle-dipping, quilting, soap-making, spinning, woodworking, and other crafts.

Clubs, churches, and other organizations display their history. Musicians—including singer-songwriters—entertain, along with legendary characters Arcadia Albritton Coker and James Mitchell “Acrefoot” Johnson. Animals, a classic fire truck, Florida authors and artists–all showcase Florida’s unique heritage and history.

Fun for the whole family

The all-day event includes bodacious barbecue…

Luscious strawberry shortcake…

… and other tasty treats; demonstrations of old-fashioned skills and crafts; legendary characters; musical entertainment; traditional Florida Cracker cow camp and whip crackers; classic 1924 LaFrance firetruck and fire hose demonstration with an exhibit about the 1905 fire that destroyed downtown Arcadia; Florida authors; a free “hands-on history” activities area with old-time games, fossil dig, and more.

For information: 863-266-5774 or

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