OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee Speckled Perch Festival will be held Saturday, March 12, and Sunday, March 13, in Flagler Park in downtown Okeechobee.
The festival in Flagler Park will open at 10 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. each day. The festival will include entertainment, food booths, arts and crafts booths and children’s activities.
On Saturday, March 12, the Speckled Perch Festival Parade will start at 10 a.m. The parade route starts at Aldi Supermarket, 330 S. Parrott Avenue and travel north on Parrott Avenue (U.S. 441) to the intersection with State Road 70 and then west on State Road 70 to the end of Flagler Park. Following the parade, the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Association will drive a small herd of cattle along the parade route.
The Speckled Perch Festival dates back to 1965. At that time, the festival honored the fishing industry with a parade and fish fry in the park during the height of the tourist season and the tradition continues today. In the early 1980s, the festival had to discontinue selling Speckled Perch dinners because Speckled Perch is a game fish and not commercially harvested. Under health regulations, only fish that has been commercially caught and processed may be served to the public.
The weekend also brings the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Association Cowtown Rodeo. The 71st annual rodeo will feature world class circuit cowboys competing against local cowboys right in Okeechobee's historic grandstand arena, 1885 US Hwy 441 North.
Rodeo grounds gates open at noon both days. Mutton Bustin’ starts at 2 p.m. (In the Mutton Bustin’ event, children attempt to ride sheep.) The rodeo starts at 2:30 p.m.
The rodeo will include professional bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, bronc riding and more! There will also be a specialty performance by the famous One Armed Bandit.