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Smallwood benefit Feb. 25

By Peter B. Gallagher

CHOKOLOSKEE — A Ten Thousand Island kayak race, fresh Gulf fish fry and Florida folk music concert will take place on Feb. 25 to raise money to cover outstanding legal costs and structural repairs for the historic Smallwood Store.

Kayakers from across the state will gather early that Saturday morning in Florida Bay waters near the store, located at the southern tip of Chokoloskee, on the Western edge of Everglades National Park. The concert and fish fry will follow the event, starting around noon, right on the grounds of the 106-year-old structure.

Scheduled headline performers include: Frank Thomas, Jim Mason, Ronny Elliott, Raiford Starke, J. Robert, Fiddlin’ Gary Mackey, Valerie Wisecracker, Dog Peter Pat, the Bullard Brothers, Gordon Mac Martin and others.

A property dispute with a nearby landowner that hindered access to the Store since last April has led to a lengthy and expensive legal case involving several court hearings.

“All of our savings are gone that we planned to use this summer to fix the Store,” said Lynn Smallwood-McMillin, granddaughter of founder Ted Smallwood and executive director of the nonprofit trust that owns the Store. “After they removed our road, we have barely had any attendance over the last 10 months.”

The Store occupies a special place in Seminole Indian history. Proprietor Ted Smallwood provided safe haven, credit and trade with Seminoles when they began to emerge from their Everglades and Big Cypress hideouts following the end of the Indian Wars in Florida.

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