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Summer fun for the country crowd: calling all cowboys, down-home girls and good ol' folks.

Explore Old Miakka

Just a few miles east of our posh resorts is a charming little slice of Cracker Country.

Plan your visit for a Saturday so you can shop the Old Miakka farmer's market. Stock up on fresh-from-the-fields produce, local honey and more. Every Saturday, rain or shine.

Real rednecks will feel at home in Crowley Museum and Nature Center's 1889 "Cracker" homestead. ("Cracker"--presumably named for the crack of a cattle whip--is the term for Florida's native cowboys.) While you're there, take a gander at the old-timey supplies in the general store. 16405 Myakka Road, Sarasota, 322-1000

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Learn the skills of pioneer life at Crowley Folk School. Year-round classes include quilting, canning, cheese-making, basket-weaving, blacksmithing, leather working, woodworking and more.

And check out nearby Crowley Nursery & Gardens, where Cathy and Charlie Crowley grow Florida-loving flowers, plants and fruit trees on 20 acres. They love to share their botanical knowledge and have inspired many local gardeners. 322-0315, open seven days a week, crowleynursery.net.

Bareback on the Beach

Forget the fancy boots and jodhpurs--BeachHorses encourages bathing suits and bare feet. Led by friendly guides on foot, you'll ride bareback along the shore on Palma Sola Causeway and then into the bay, where you can perform acrobatics like "horse surfing" or just trail your feet in the water and enjoy the ride. In deeper waters, the horse will actually be swimming underneath you. By appointment; (855) 510-1170.

The Asphalt Rodeo

If it's got an engine and four (or more) wheels, chances are you can see it race at Desoto Speedway. The 3/8-mile track hosts stock cars, trucks, late-model cars, open-wheel racing and much more--plus a figure-eight dirt track for deisel-powered school buses. 21000A S.R. 64 E., nine miles east of I-75, 748-3171.

Give It a Shot

When that trigger finger gets to itchin', head out east to the Manatee Gun and Archery Club shooting range. First Sunday morning of the month, the range hosts the Miakka Misfits, a member of the national cowboy-themed Single Action Shooting Society. Take your best shot at targets in a number of Old West-style shooting stages. Spectators welcome, too. $12 for nonmembers. 1805 Logue Road, Myakka City, (941) 322-0055.

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Grab something fried and a cold one and stay a piece.

Hickory Hollow Look for the headless pig, a Rubonia Mardi Gras castoff and a favorite target for local pranksters. Hickory Hollow's pulled pork, smoked for 24 hours with Virginia white hickory, was ranked third-best barbecue in the nation by USA Today in 2006. 4705 U.S. Highway 301 N., Ellenton, 722-3932.

Nancy's Bar-B-Q Nancy Krohngold earned her fame selling pulled pork sandwiches out of the back of her van. Her downtown restaurant keeps that spirit alive with picnic tables and that famous pork--plus brisket, chicken and a slew of sides. 301 S. Pineapple Ave., downtown Sarasota, 366-BBQ1.

Linger Lodge Decorated floor-to-ceiling with "preserved" Florida critters, the Linger Lodge menu proudly quotes Al Roker, who called it "one of the five weirdest restaurants in the country." Its Old Florida authenticity shines in favorites like alligator and fried green tomatoes. 7205 85th St. Court E, Bradenton, 755-2757.

Owen's Fish Camp Southern seafood done downtown Sarasota style, including cornmeal-fried catfish, po' boys and the "Low Country Boil," with mussels, clams, shrimp, andouille sausage and more. 516 Burns Lane, Sarasota, 951-6936.

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Woody's River Roo This riverfront favorite draws a colorful crowd for live music, a great view and treats like beer-battered grouper bites and cornmeal-dusted fried pickles. 5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, 722-2391.

RELATED ARTICLE: Mud in Your Eye

The Redneck Yacht Club hosts six weekend mudding events throughout the year. At the center of the around-the-clock party are Southern guys and gals sloshing their massive (and messy) customized trucks through mud up to their foglights, (Park rules keep it safe without spoiling the fun.) Even if you don't drive a 4x4, just bring a tent and a case of Coors, and someone will be happy to take you for a spin. $50 per person, per weekend. 44570 Bermont Road, Punta Gorda, 505-8465, redneckyachtclubmudpark.com.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Cowboy Up

Even greenhorns love the 83-year-old Arcadia Rodeo, and it's fun to drive through this little Florida town and see the historic homes and many antique shops. Then prepare to be dazzled by rodeo pros. Here's a guide to the difficult--and often dangerous--events.

Bull riding: This is when the rider straps one hand to an ornery, 2,500-pound animal and tries to stay on for eight seconds.

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Bareback riding: Just like bull riding, except on an ornery horse.

Saddle bronc riding: The rider must hang onto a single rein attached to a bucking horse, and sit in the saddle for eight seconds.

Barrel racing: The contestants ride as fast as the horses can go around three barrels and back to the start.

Steer wrestling: The rider hops off the horse at full tilt, grabs that steer by the horns and drags him to the ground.

Tie-down roping: With "pigging line" in teeth and horse going full speed, riders lasso a sprinting calf, then hop off the horse, drag the calf to the ground and tie three of his legs together.

Aug. 3-4, 124 Heard St., Arcadia, (800) 749-7633.
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Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Jun 22, 2012
Words:879
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