Aside from a few showers here and there, the weather has been awfully pleasant lately, and that has us thinking about all sorts of outdoor activities, especially picnics and barbecues. May is National Barbecue Month, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to review the role of these delicious social occasions in Florida’s past.
Barbecue at the home of J.D. Hysler in Jacksonville (circa 1950s).
Barbecue is a treat for Floridians of all ages. Pictured here is a group of people enjoying plates of food during a dedication ceremony for new tobacco warehouses in Jasper (July 1947).
The concept of getting a large group of folks together for a good meal outdoors is timeless, and some of our earliest photographs in the Florida Photographic Collection are of Floridians enjoying picnics and barbecues with friends, family, churches, and communities.
Barbecuing meat at a picnic for the Masons in Kissimmee (June 24, 1886).
A barbecue picnic, complete with oysters (circa 1870s).
Group portrait at a barbecue in Eustis. Seated in front to the right is Herbert John Webber, a horticulturist whose pioneering field work at a Eustis field lab helped stimulate the citrus industry in that area (October 12, 1903).
A mid-winter barbecue at Oldsmar (circa 1920s).
Anytime can be the right time for a barbecue, but special occasions make a particularly good excuse to fire up the grill. Florida communities have often celebrated groundbreaking ceremonies, anniversaries of momentous events, and dedications of new buildings and structures with large barbecues and picnics.
Barbecue is ready to serve at this Tin Can Tourist convention at Arcadia in DeSoto County (circa 1920s).
Harold Colee, longtime vice-president of the Florida State Chamber of Commerce, accepting a plate of barbecue at a Tree Farm event in Taylor County (April 3, 1947).
Men cutting ribs in preparation for a barbecue celebrating the opening of the John E. Mathews Bridge over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. In the center is Lou Bono, founder of the original Bono’s Barbecue in Jacksonville (March 1953).
Preparing racks of ribs for a barbecue celebrating the opening of the John E. Mathews Bridge over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville (March 1953).
Preparations for a barbecue celebrating the dedication of the Jim Woodruff Dam at Chattahoochee (1957).
Barbecues have also had a close connection with Florida politics. Candidates have long used them as a way to rub shoulders with their constituents during campaigns, to celebrate victories, and sometimes even to celebrate Election Day itself. Politics being what they are, these occasions were at times marked with a little roughhousing between the partisans for each candidate. Ellen Call Long described one such Election Day incident in her book Florida Breezes:
“Around the square, people gathered in knots; candidates or their friends made speeches, and all was good humor and sociability, but these culminated with the barbecue, and as whiskey circulated, many a proud-stepping sovereign of the morning yielded his sceptre to King Barleycorn; and there were uproarious haranguers of what American citizens can’t and won’t submit to; and there were fist fights, and consequent bruised heads, with blacked eyes; and oh, those “sons of the soil” that were so gallant, so solemn in that early day – we must spare them, for I dare say there was at home many a ‘sullen dame, gathering her brows like gathering storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm.’”
Thankfully, in more recent times the barbecues associated with Florida politics have been much tamer, as these photos demonstrate.
Governor Fuller Warren checking a slab of meat as it roasts on a barbecue pit during the festivities celebrating his inauguration as Florida’s 30th governor (January 4, 1949).
A crowd of 35,000-40,000 people in line for barbecue at festivities celebrating the inauguration of Florida’s 30th governor, Fuller Warren (January 4, 1949).
Governor Charley E. Johns (center, in dark coat and hat) shakes hands during a campaign barbecue event. Johns had become governor upon the death of Governor Dan McCarty, but the state Supreme Court ruled he would have to win a special election to continue in the office. LeRoy Collins would eventually win this election (1954).
So what are you waiting for? Celebrate National Barbecue Month by planning your own barbecue with friends or family. If you’re looking for a great place to do it, check out the Florida State Parks website to find out more about the 161 park facilities operated by the State of Florida.
Also, have a look at the Florida Park Service photograph collection.