“Here they come,” a woman calls out to the crowd gathered along Norvell-Bryant Highway to see a re-enactment of Florida history at the 2014 Southern Heritage Festival. A quarter mile west, cattle emerge from the Withlacoochee Trail flanked by cattlemen and women on horses and travel towards the festival grounds. Traffic stops as the cattle cross N. Florida Avenue. The ranch hands maneuver the herd past the crowd and into a penned area at the festival. It is a glimpse of Florida’s past when cattle, that roamed freely in meadows and open woodlands, were rounded up and driven to the Tampa markets.
The event raised funds for the restoration of the historic Hernando Elementary School, constructed in 1940 and occupied by students until 1994. The grounds featured food vendors, craft booths and a petting zoo as well as the 4-H Club.
Cattle were introduced to North America in Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1521. The cattle industry in Florida has been in existence for nearly 500 years and remains a significant agriculture industry in the Florida landscape today.