What is a Cracker?

For the past sixteen years Englewood has been celebrating Old Florida with a “Cracker” Fair. This year the tradition continues. It is said the term “Cracker” comes from the cracking of the whip Florida cow hunters used to herd cattle. Florida was the first cattle producing state in America — not Texas, not Missouri – Florida. In the early 1500s Spanish conquistadors landed on the shores of Florida and attempted to colonize the area. They were thwarted and attacked by Native Americans. The colonists abandoned their quest, leaving behind horses, hogs and Andalusian cattle they had brought by ship: this was the first livestock in North America.

“Florida Crackers” by Frederick Remington

The Florida livestock bred and ran wild for centuries. Prior to the Civil War, a rugged brand of individual settled along Florida’s central corridor. They relied on bullwhips to flush cows out of the palmetto scrub. They used 10-to-12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. The snaps of these whips would break the sound barrier making a loud CRACK. Thus these early settlers became known as Cracker Cowmen, Cow Hunters, or Florida Crackers. They provided food for the Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and also rounded up cattle for shipment to Cuba. The Cubans loved Florida beef and paid for the cattle with gold doubloons. Today the term Cracker is used to refer to anyone who is a true native Floridian.

At this year’s Cracker Fair there will be classic country and folk music by John Tuff and Friends, Doug Burns and James Hawkins. There will also be Cracker whip & Cast Net demonstrations, local food, a lemon dessert baking contest, kid’s games and all sorts of crafts and fun for all. Come one, come all: Saturday, February 9th from 10 to 4 at Pioneer Park on Dearborn Street. Admission is free.


A Litard Knot Floater

The storm was a “litard knot floater.” Mike Miller (with Florida Backroads Travel.com) quotes his friend Howard who is a Florida Cracker. A Cracker is a true Native Floridian. Mike says Crackers have a language of their own. He explains, “a ‘litard’ is a fat pine knot used like kindling to start fires. A fat pine knot is very heavy, and it takes a lot of water to make it float.”

Most Floridians say the term Cracker comes from the cracking of the whip Florida cow hunters used to herd cattle.

Physicists Alain Goriely and Tyler McMillen at the University of Arizona explain: “The crack of a whip comes from a loop traveling along the whip, gaining speed until it reaches the speed of sound and creates a sonic boom. Even though some parts of the whip travel at greater speeds, it is the loop itself that generates the sonic boom.”

For the past sixteen years Englewood has been celebrating the Crackers and Old Florida with a Cracker Fair. This year the tradition continues. We hope there will be fair skies and no “litard knot floaters!”

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