In 1975 the Barberville Produce opened in Pierson, Fla. and in the 40 years since then has grown into a combination produce, pottery and yard art emporium that fills up over two acres. By 1990 the road art aspect had grown so large that the place took on a new name, Barberville Roadside Yard Art & Produce.
In a state where there are plenty of unusual things by the side of the road this one stands out. Located on SR 40 just west of US 17, it is a beacon of color and design. As you approach you are likely to see a full sized T Rex next to a seven-foot tall ceramic rooster. Just beyond them are a few Statue of Liberty ladies wired for lanterns to spread light at your own welcoming shores. There are lifelike ceramic and metal animals from the African plains and buffaloes mixed in with them for good measure.
Inside the wire walls of the compound are dozens of kinds of ceramic pots and more animals and metal signs for your party room next to gazing globes and gazebos, outdoor furniture, fountains, sinks and rustic metal animal sculptures.
Much of the pottery is Talavera from the city of Puebla and surrounding towns in Mexico. Talavera is famous around the world because it is made from especially fine clays and the traditional glazes and decorations are so crisp and colorful. A new shipment arrives each month.
The produce stand is still there and still offering up boiled and roasted peanuts, local honey, produce of the season, peanut brittle and old fashioned freshly made peanut butter.
With its independent spirit and quirky offerings, Barberville Yard Art and Produce definitely qualifies as Old Florida.
Next time you are on your way to Silver Springs or Barberville Pioneer Settlement or somewhere else and passing close by, set aside a half hour or so to wander the grounds and look at all this fine yard art and produce. You’ll probably take home some peanuts at the very least and may fall in love with a full sized ceramic tiger or a rearin’ bronco made out of metal. Don’t worry, if it won’t fit in your car, they can get it delivered to you.
Barberville Produce is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. It’s not too soon to start thinking about Christmas presents…
Venice, Florida touts itself as the shark tooth capital of the world and there have certainly been plenty of big shark teeth pulled from the offshore waters, nearby rivers and even the beaches. People who collect the big teeth, mainly those of the extinct megalodon (big as a bus and mouth full of 7-inch teeth) are almost cult-like in their devotions to finding these fossil treasures and the annual Venice Shark Tooth Festival held in April each year is the place to go to see what’s been found and for sale.
This year’s festival (23rd annual) just wrapped up (April 10-12) and as in previous years it had something for nearly everyone from the most serious collector to the complete newbie and even those who have no interest in sharks at all.
The festival is held on the grounds of the airport in Venice with plenty of free parking and a broad area for exhibitions, vendors, food, music and fun. A mere three bucks gets you in and kids under 12 are free. Once inside the gate you may opt to go listen to the nice lineup of bands playing on a stage at the far end or head directly to the food section. Lemonade was the drink of choice on Saturday with lines all day but the beer tent stayed busy too. BBQ was cooking in big smokers and there were food stands with fish sandwiches, funnel cakes dripping glaze, marinated lamb, seafood sampler plates, jambalaya, gator nuggets and a lot more.
Vendors offered all kinds of jewelry, clothes, artwork and fine décor for your home like those flattened beer bottles calling out to be cheese platters. My friend and fellow fossil hunter Ken Follmann introduced his line of sculpture made of broken shark teeth (Bite Me Fossil Sculpture) this year.
You could get a Tiki statue, some antique-looking wall signs made of battered metal and lights proclaiming your own “Bar” or pick up a cap or tee shirt showing off your interest in all things shark tooth-ish. There was a dig pit where kids could find their own shark teeth and Mote Marine Lab had their big mobile live exhibition truck on site with open “touch me” tanks of sealife.
But the big attraction was housed under three large tents where the local and national luminaries in the collection of shark teeth and other fossils showed their best stuff. The crowds surged like floodwaters around the displays that ranged from highly polished stone boxes made from ammonite-rich rocks from Morocco to large megalodon teeth just out of the water off Venice this week.
From the local scene Debra Powell who runs big Facebook fossil groups and fossil sales and Bill Eberlein (the diver that always brings home the big one) were on hand and Frank Garcia, granddaddy (in experience not so much age) of Florida Fossil Collectors, showed up for a visit though he has recently moved out west.
The tables groaned under the weight of true fossil treasure and there were enough sighs from people wishing they could take it all home to make a breeze to cool off even the hottest part of the day. But there were also plenty of souvenir type things including lots of very inexpensive necklaces with real shark teeth, key rings and replicas of the big teeth that would fool everyone but an expert. The megalodons and other sharks were well represented but the broad range of fossils found in Florida from mastodons and mammoths, bison and three-toed tiny horses to extinct whales, dugongs and other amazing animals were also on display. Reaching further afield there were plenty of ammonites and crinoids and even dinosaurs.
The cars kept coming all day and judging from the faces of folks wandering around, lemonade in one hand, bag of goodies in the other this year’s festival was one of the best.
Check out next year’s festival and get info on location and even how to volunteer at www.sharkstoothfest.com. And if you come to the area give your own luck a try. Head for any of the local beaches (Venice, Casperson, Nokomis, Manasota) and with a little patience searching through the washed up shells you will come home with your own shark teeth that are hundreds of thousands to millions of years old.
© Copyright 2015: text Sue Harrison; photos Sue Harrison and Lee Brock for MyOldFlorida.com.
The Big Orange is kind of like the Weinermobile but different.
Started in 1964, Bob Roth's New River Groves roadside stand in Davie is famous for several things including the big orange that is often seen in the parking lot along busy Griffin Road as it leads away from Fort Lauderdale and toward the Everglades. The big oranges at Roth’s are both vehicles and a drink stand that travels around. There are a couple of them and they are part of the Old Florida feeling with their 50 years of squeezing and pleasing.
Roth’s is one of the places you can count on getting the delicious honeybell orange during the short span of time it’s available once a year. Of course there are plenty of other orange, grapefruit and tangerine varieties for sale all packed up in half-bushel paper sacks or the familiar orange mesh bags that hold a full bushel.
Inside there are sandwiches and coffee, fresh juice, snacks, boiled peanuts always hot and ready, a batch of jams and jellies, other condiments and a cooler full of plain white boxes full of promise.
There’s gator meat in the cooler in those hand-lettered boxes and Roth’s well known pies including the key lime pie based on a recipe from Bob’s late wife Terry who died in 2002. (You can get Terry’s pies in a number of other places including nearby Flamingo Gardens, another must see.)
Although there is a lot of discussion about crust and toppings, everyone agrees key lime pie is pale yellow, never green. The ingredients are few but that still allows for plenty of wiggle room when making this simple but exquisite pie.
Terry’s pie uses the more traditional graham cracker crumb crust as opposed to the baked pastry shell. And her pie features whipped cream topping while an equal number of pie makers tend to meringue. At Roth’s there is also a key lime pie with orange or mango flavor added.
Their pie is so famous that it traveled to the capitol in Tallahassee in 1994 when the legislature was pondering that most serious of state decisions — which pie to name as the state pie. Key lime won in a squeaker over pecan pie and you have to wonder if it wasn’t Terry and her tart-sweet concoction that sealed the deal once the legislators had a taste.
People have been stopping by Roth’s for almost 50 years for a bag of sunshine and now a piece of vote-swaying history.