By Steve Lee
LAND O’ LAKES — The traditional Land O’ Lakes Flapjack Festival has been discontinued, just one year after an ill-fated relocation to the Pasco County Fairgrounds in Dade City.
There is a new fall festival in central Pasco, however, and it just might become a tradition.
Swamp Fest, a three-day event that concluded Nov. 8 at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center, took place at the longtime site of the former festival.
The Robinsons were among numerous families and visitors from the area to attend Swamp Fest. The name change, along with several different events, did not matter to them as much as upholding a local tradition.
“It’s the same thing,” said Theresa Robinson, a 1986 Land O’ Lakes graduate. “The only thing that’s missing is the parade and the flapjacks.”
Actually, pancakes were served on Saturday and Sunday mornings, much like the former festival.
“It’s all good. I didn’t realize it was going to be this big, this many people,” Robinson continued, as her children, 15-year-old Christopher and 9-year-old Nicole lined up for carnival rides.
William Robinson, Theresa’s husband, said he is glad a festival returned to Land O’ Lakes.
“It was no good in Dade City,” he said. “It’s our festival.”
Like the Flapjack Festival, Wade Shows provided the midway and carnival rides for Swamp Fest, which was highlighted by a wrestling championship, antique car show and musicians.
“This is a much better atmosphere, more fan participation,” said Donnie Simonds, a self-described fourth-generation cracker from Hudson whose band also played at last year sparsely attended festival in Dade City.
Swamp Fest is the brainchild of Mike Connor, president of the Land O’ Lakes Athletics Booster Club. Connor, the public address announcer at Gator football games, also organized a Swamp Fest last February on a smaller scale at Land O’ Lakes High.
With the Land O’ Lakes Chamber of Commerce deciding not to continue hosting the Flapjack Festival, Connor and booster club members took matters into their own hands so as not to lose the primary fund-raiser for the school’s athletic teams.
“At least there’s a fall festival in Land O’ Lakes,” Connor said.
Connor did not have final figures readily available the morning after the event. Nonetheless, he was encouraged by the turnout and said prospects are bright for the future of Swamp Fest.
“We had a tremendous outpouring of support,” he said. “There’s a few things we have to work on, but I think we have a viable platform.”
Making Swamp Fest an annual event sets just fine with Land O’ Lakes wrestling coach Jason Carpenter, who as a former Gator was an all-state wrestler and all-conference football player.
“Instead of doing car washes, I can do this once a year and I’m done,” Carpenter said of the athletic department’s fund-raiser.
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