TAMPA, Florida -- Just past the promise of cotton candy and sausage at the Florida State Fair, you can walk back in time to a place where Molly the mule helps mill sugar cane and Doyle Carlton III keeps history in motion.
"It just blesses my heart every time I come here," he says.
Thousands of students take field trips to Cracker Country at the Fairgrounds every year to make soap and churn butter. Cracker Country has been open for so long that Carlton sees adults who came to the museum as children now taking their own kids to explore the exhibits.
When the Florida State Fair moved from downtown Tampa in the 1970s, Carlton's parents thought a spacious, lush corner of the fairground footprint would be perfect for recreating part of Florida's past. Now, Carlton lends his vision and generosity to the museum.
"They just loved the legacy of Florida and Florida history, and they wanted to do what they could to bring some of that to life," Carlton says.
"Cracker Country" started with just two buildings, including the Carlton house. It was built west of Wauchula, and was the birthplace of Carlton's grandfather, Doyle Carlton, who led the state during the Great Depression.
Today, Cracker Country is home to 13 original buildings full of history, including Governors Inn. It used to be the only place you could find a portrait of every Florida governor.
And by the way, the term "cracker" actually refers to the sound of a cracking whip hitting the ground, which would help move cattle in the 19th century.
"You see all the people with smiles on their faces and in no hurry to get out of here. They just want to linger around here and look and ask questions and play and enjoy what here," Carlton says. "It's a tremendous blessing."
It inspires him to keep his family's vision, and Florida's history, alive.