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GR8RJax™ Road Trip: Valentine’s fun so romantic you’ll want to pinch yourself

Looking for something out of the ordinary for Valentine’s Day?

Of all the  weird Florida wildlife that serve as festival mascots, tiny little fiddler crabs may be some of the most unlikely.
Courtesy of the Steinhatchee River Chamber of Commerce

Here’s where to fiddle away the weekend this year.

Fording history

According to the historical marker located at the Steinhatchee Post Office, the area around Steinhatchee, including Deadman Bay, in Taylor county was first drawn on Spanish maps in the early 1500s.

In some ways more cinematic than Cow Ford’s wide shallow spot on the St. Johns, Steinhatchee’s Falls are witness to much north Florida history, having been crossed by several bound for greatness.

The place we now call Steinhatchee was “discovered” by Spanish conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez in 1529.

More big news came when Hernando de Soto crossed the Steinhatchee river at the Falls in about 1540.

In 1818, General Andrew Jackson crossed them again during the first Seminole War to be followed in 1838 by Gen. Zachary Taylor during the Second Seminole War.

Like Greater Jacksonville, Steinhatchee's long history begins with Indians about 12,000 year ago and is peopled by pirates (the 15th-18th centuries), loggers (1800s), sponge divers (1940s-1950s) and commercial fishermen, shrimpers and crabbers.

In 1931, the fishing village took the name Steinhatchee, derived from the Indian words esteen hatchee, river (hatchee) of man (esteen).

What more fitting tribute, then, than for this band of hardy fisherpeople to mount an homage to the famous denizens of Deadman Bay, humble fiddler crabs?

6th Annual Fiddler Crab Festival – Steinhatchee, Fla.

Of all the weird Florida wildlife that serve as festival mascots, tiny little fiddler crabs may be some of the most unlikely.

What a sense of whimsy have the good people of Steinhatchee.

In fact, Steinhatchee promises to be good fun for the whole family, should your Valentine’s plans include the kids.

Time, date, place

  • Fri., Feb. 14, through Sun., Feb. 16, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Admission: FREE & open to the public. Fees charged for some events.
  • Steinhatchee Community Center overlooking the beautiful Steinhatchee River
  • 1013 Riverside Drive S.E.
  • Steinhatchee, Fla.
  • Contact: Steinhatchee River Chamber of Commerce
  • Phone: 352-356-8185
  • Email: info@steinhatcheeriverchamber.org

http://steinhatcheeriverchamber.org/index.php/attractions/events/steinhatchee-fiddler-crab-festival

How to get to Steinhatchee from GreaterJax™

  • Route: US 17 to FL-16W, FL-24 E to Gainesville. From Gainesville – EFL-26 W/State Road 26 W, then FL-55 N/US-19 N/US-27 Alt N/US-98 N
  • Mileage: approx. 150 mi.
  • Driving Time: 3 hr.,20 min.
  • Gas: 4.2 gals, based on 30 mpg
  • Gas Money, Avg. price of $3.45/gal: $18.00 one way

Here’s what’s up at the Festival:

  • Steinhatchee Crab Jam – 3 days of music starting at 6 p.m. on Friday at the River Haven Marina​
  • Fiddler Crab Race – 100 crabs race on Saturday. Staggered starts. Sponsor a crab, and it’s off to the races.
  • Photo ShowPrizes awarded for best of show and in the sunset, nature and wildlife and misc. divisions. $5 for one entry for adults, 3 for $10.00 or $15.00 for 5 or more. Kids enter FREE.
  • Deadman Bay Pirate Treasure Quest – Crews of four sport their good walking shoes and pirate costumes for a treasure hunt through town. Bring your camera or your camera phone, and be sure obey all laws and posted signs. $20 to enter, $25 to the captains.
  • “Swamp Water” Cook-Off – Soups, stews & chilis. Bring your appetite. Cash prize for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in each category, trophy for 3rd place with an over all best winner. Purchase your commemorative tasting mugs can be purchased for tasting.
  • Fiddler Festival Crab Parade – Golf carts, horses, floats & more. Parade starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
  • Boot Artin’ – Locals show off their “Steinhatchee Reeboks” (white rubber fishing boots). Proceeds to benefit the local food bank. Visitors can vote for best entry by stuffing cash in the boot. Trophy & ribbons awarded for top three entries.
  • “Lots of Spots” Redfish Contest – Saturday, $15 entry fee, mandatory Capt’s meeting at Sea Hag. Click here for more information on this event.
  • 2nd Annual Poker Run – Sunday. Proceeds to benefit local Boys & Girls Club. Bikes, walkers, golf carts & vehicles welcome.
  • River Tours – Tours the Steinhatchee River for up to six peopl for $5 per adult. Tous board at the River Haven Marina.
  • Camp Nemo for Kids – Touch tank, face painting, kids games & more fun.
  • Food & Crafts, T-Shirts, Ball Caps & more

For a complete list of events, click here. Many contests are still accepting entries.

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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: kt.4examiner@yahoo.com