BY RODOLFO ROMAN
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
Coral Gables resident Robert Burr, 57, remembers hanging out at his family’s farm in Redland and watching pilots land their airplanes to meet the Strawberry King — his Uncle Charley Burr.
“While we were standing there having a milkshake, people landed their airplane to buy some strawberries and shakes,” said Burr whose family has run Burr’s Berry Farm fruit stand and U-pick strawberry field for decades. “I thought that was cool.”
Fifty-some years later, Burr shared those childhood memories with friends and strangers to show appreciation for a vanishing rural way of life at the ninth annual Redland Riot Road Rallye tour on Jan. 9.
“It goes back to something we have done since we were kids on a Saturday,” Burr said. “We’d jump on the station wagon and go out in the Redlands and get a bunch of goodies.”
Despite rain, wind and 40-degree weather, more than 100 participated in the car caravan adventure. They discovered 11 historical and tasty spots, where they had a chance to stock up on fresh produce, orchids, exotic fruits and homemade delicacies.
“A lot of people don’t know about this place or any of the other places,” Homestead resident Karen Crowley said at Cauley Square, a former rail station that has been transformed into quaint shops and restaurants.
More than 57 teams participated in the tour that included a contest. The tour is free, but registered teams paid $5 to cover costs of printing contest maps.
Participants were each given a map and 34 cryptic questions. They were answered by observing surroundings at the 11 stops such as at Whitney’s Produce Market and Knaus Berry Farm, where people lined up to buy homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.
With a quizzical expression, Davie resident Ricardo Martinez stopped by Burr’s Berry Farm to pick up some strawberries — and answer the contest’s questions.
“It’s fun to come and answer the questions,” said Martinez who attended his second tour. “So far, I have answered most of the questions. Last year, I missed one.”
Tour goers answered questions like “How many green children are playing in the fountain? — referring to a fountain found in Cauley Square.
The team that turned in the most correct answers won a gift basket full of fruits, coupons and a hotel stay.
What started as a day out in the country for Burr and his friends has turned into an annual pilgrimage that brings both awareness and appreciation of a disappearing rural way of life.
“A lot of our lives are based on being hurried and having tight schedules and eating at fast food franchises and this is the opposite,” Burr said. “This is stuff freshly made like it was done 100 years ago.”
For Frances Varela, owner of Cauley Square, the annual event is also a financial boost.
It has “an economic impact,” she said.
Burr is glad to help out — especially if it helps keep the Redland rural way of life.
“We want farmers to keep their businesses going and be profitable,” he said. “We don’t want the farms to be turned into housing developments.
“People here are growing the most unusual and exotic stuff in the country,” he added.
The wicked weather wasn’t an issue for Detroit resident Carmen Specca, dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and jacket.
“We can’t go to the beach so we come here,” he said. “We saw something interesting at Cauley Square: an artist who did art in tin, which is something different.”
The adventure concluded at Schnebly Redland’s Winery, where team members warmed up by tasting tropical wine, crepes and barbecue.
“This is a fun way to drive through the back roads and visit the countryside,” said New Yorker Patricia Shores. “Because when you drive on the highway all you really see are malls and buildings.
“It is nice to know about your culture and history.”
For more information about the tour, go to www.redlandriot.com.