Monday, April 18, 2016

Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin' Festival and other Florida Fun

Seriously, weren't not making this stuff up! We did go to the Worm Gruntin' Festival in Sopchoppy, Florida.

We are always looking for local festivals that cross our path, and we couldn't turn down the opportunity to find out what worm gruntin' is. We missed the morning's demonstration, but we got personal explanations from one of the professional worm grunters.

The process includes putting a wooden stake in the ground. Professionals know that sweet gum is the best wood, because it makes the best grunting sound when the top is rubbed with a ten pound metal bar. Denisa is getting encouragement on the proper technique. She can attest that moving that heavy metal bar while in that squatting position makes for a great arm and leg exercise. It also produces a low grunting sound and vibrates the ground around the stake. The combination of the two entices worms to crawl out of the ground.

This process isn't as effective in a grassy park in town. It's best practiced in the middle of the spongy Appalachicola national forest. We found this picture of his Mother, who picks up the worms that climb out of the ground in response to the vibrations. That's a big bucket of worms!

The Revell family has made a livelihood out of worm grunting for many years. They count them into plastic containers filled with saw dust, and then ship them across a five state area within 24 hours. Besides learning about worms, the festival also included a good batch of musical entertainment, along with food and crafts vendors.

We sat under the spanish-moss-draped oak trees, eating kettle corn, taking in the local culture of Sopchoppy, Florida. Some days are better than we could even make up.

It seems that the worm gruntin' wasn't the only festival going on that weekend. There was also a Jewish Food Festival in Tallahassee on Sunday. We went to church at a delightful church that morning, and we were invited to the church picnic afterwards. After that delicious food, we were too stuffed to eat the Jewish lunch at the festival. But we are never too full to try desserts. We tried the sweet noodle kugel, that we heard described as sweet macaroni and cheese. We also bought cherry hamentashen and apricot ragulas.

Every festival needs music, and it just seems that Florida musicians like big hats. It's hard to see the drummer in the sombrero behind the cymbal, but performing on a stage with no shade means that you bring your own shade.

One of the funnest parts of the Jewish festival was meeting a woman walking a dog that looked vaguely familiar. When we struck up a conversation with her, we found that the dog was a four-month-old Golden Doodle. That would be about the same age as the puppy that our son and his wife got this winter. We've seen lots of pictures, but haven't gotten to meet their new puppy. So it was fun today to pet his Florida twin. It's not clear who had the biggest smile from this chance encounter--Denisa or the puppy.

There was one other festival in town that we had read about, so we headed to the campus of Florida State University to see it. This is one of only two universities in the United States with a study program in circus. The Flying High Circus at FSU has performances throughout the month of April to showcase what the students are learning at college. We would have attended the circus, but general admission tickets were $27 each. So instead, we took a quick picture at the gate and watched some jugglers practicing outside.

We love being on college campuses, and we have found that a Division I university always has something going on. We stopped in at the tennis courts to watch the end of the match against the University of Louisville team. We had never experienced a college tennis match, so we started a conversation with a spectator that explained the significance of the game we were watching. He had twin sons on the team, and knew all about FSU tennis. We just started watching, and a few minutes later the player in front of us hit the winning shot that clinched the match. I guess we are pretty good luck!

We then made our way to the FSU football stadium. It looks good from the front, but there is some massive remodeling going on behind that pretty facade.

The entire end zone was being dismantled, including most of the seating areas. In fact, the spring game had to be moved to Orlando this year because the stadium can't be used now.

On display in the lobby of the stadium were uniforms worn by famous FSU athletes. But the most fun was seeing the three college football championship trophies. The three glowing orbs below are the Waterford crystal footballs earned by Florida State University football as the best college team in the nation in 1993, 1999, and 2013.

We walked outside to the football practice field to see the "sod cemetery." This is a tradition that spans back to 1962, in which the captain of the football team brings back a little piece of grass from an important game on the road that FSU wins. The victorious grass is planted in the cemetery, and memorialized by a headstone with the date and score of the game.

There was a baseball game going on, but we didn't think we could pass as coeds to get in at the free student gate.

Big university campuses are so busy! There was also a women's softball game going on. We stepped up to the fence to watch the action. Momentarily there was a crack of the bat, driving in the winning run for FSU. Just like in tennis, we were pretty good luck for the softball team.

It was a great evening walk around the nice campus of Florida State University. We learned a little about the "Garnet and Gold" teams of FSU while getting some good exercise ourselves. 

Festivals and University campuses are two of our favorite things to explore!

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