By Tamas Mondovics

Each year, close to 25,000 elementary school students from around 10 counties visit Mildred W. and Doyle E. Carlton, Jr. Cracker Country, a rural Florida living history museum located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, and get a chance to learn about the State’s past.

But besides the historical pieces that fill Cracker Country, Dan Marshall, manager of Museum Operations at Cracker Country, said it is the volunteers who play an essential role in teaching the traditions of rural Florida that make the museum come to life.

To that end, Marshall said, museum officials have once again opened recruitment to the public.

“We are very excited to open volunteer recruitment up to the public,” said Marshall. “This is such a great way to help Tampa Bay area youth and be involved in a fun, educational experience that is both rewarding and memorable.”

Marshall said that volunteers themselves will learn about 1890s rural Florida, as well as educate both children and adults about the time period, as well as participate in the 2013 Florida State Fair in February.

Volunteer opportunities include assisting staff with the development and presentation of interpretive and educational programs, documentation, cataloging and conservation of museum collections and library, museum store operations, the production of period correct hand-made items, physical maintenance of buildings, exhibits and museum grounds.

The maintenance of the museums living collection including heirloom gardens and heritage livestock breeds and the maintenance of model trains and animatronics are also on the volunteer’s work list.

Cracker Country was established in 1978 by Mildred W. and Doyle E. Carlton, Jr. so future generations could better understand and appreciate Florida’s rural heritage.

From the rustic cypress log corn crib to the grand old two-story Carlton house, Cracker Country features thirteen original buildings dating from 1870-1912.

The buildings were moved to their present location from throughout the state, then restored and furnished with antiques of the period.

In addition to holding the annual Florida State Fair, February 7-18, 2013, the fairgrounds hosts a wide variety of other events throughout the year.

While open to school programs during the year, Cracker Country is now open to the public the first Saturday of each month except in February when the grounds are open all 12 days during the Florida State Fair.

Cracker Country is presented by the Florida State Fair Authority. For more information, please visit


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