The Marco Island Historical Society Presents Lila Zuck in The Rose History Auditorium, Tuesday, August 2, 7 p.m. The author will be available in the Museum Shop for a book signing after her presentation.
Since about 1949, it has been a Collier County tradition to attend the Swamp Buggy Races. The original use of the vehicles was hunting. After a summer getting ready for hunting season, local buggy owners gathered to pit their souped-up buggies against each other. There is a dance to highlight the celebration of swamp buggy days.
For several years, the Florida Outdoor Writers Association had been annually convening in Naples, focusing their reports on the county’s bountiful natural assets, pristine wilderness, its fish and its game. These writers were capable of promoting the area’s pioneer heritage if they were exposed to it.
Swamp Buggy Days celebrated those pioneers who settled Collier County in the late 1800s, who drove woods buggies into the Everglades, hunted to feed their families and united to improve and sustain their communities.
Compared to other cities in the nation, Naples developed very slowly at first. In 1950, while the first missile was being tested on Cape Canaveral, it took hunters all day to get from Naples to eastern Collier County to bring home a turkey.
It was a major convenience in 1960 when Naples Airlines began offering flights to Miami from Naples, two years after Pan Am initiated jet service from New York across the Atlantic to Europe!
Only a decade later, in 1971, the Lutgert Cos.built Naples’ first high-rise, the 15-story Horizon House, and not till 1981 was farm land transformed into the luxurious Quail Creek subdivision.
During the short 20 years between 1980 and 2000, Naples caught up with other major cities in the United States, yet never lost sight of its pioneer heritage.
The city’s charm is magnified by its proximity to the county’s historical landmarks to the east. The Old Marco Inn, the Rod and Gun Club and Everglades City Hall are just a few “structural traditions” of life in the county in the early 1900s.
It is the “living traditions” that keep Collier County’s past alive.
In 1973 the community of Everglades City held a fish fry to raise money to build a community park for its children. That fish fry turned into the annual Everglades City Seafood Festival, a ” living tradition” which continues to draw thousands each February to a city that is transformed into a culinary delight and every child’s magical kingdom.
Swamp Buggy Days is Naples’ oldest “living tradition,” still celebrated each October with the swamp buggy parade, during which the swamp buggy queen and the swamp buggies are introduced to the public and the local government, civic groups and the community display their assets.
The drivers still test their buggies at the track on Saturday. On Sunday the aroma of barbecue still hovers over the grandstands, the music is definitely country, the county sheriff must start the races, fans continue to come to Naples from all over the world and everyone always has a blast!
Best of all, the swamp buggy king still jumps into the Sippi Hole with his swamp buggy queen!