Billy Goat Day is a Florida Trail hiker reunion and celebration all rolled into one. It dates back to 2010, when Maw-ee and Paw-ee got together with Chuck Norris and Tigger to bring a vanload of hikers off the Florida Trail and into a Golden Corral to meet legendary long distance hiker Billy Goat and surprise him for his 70th birthday. “Maw-ee and Paw-ee sang a song,” said Chuck. “We made the guy cry. ‘That’s the first time I’ve ever had a birthday party,’ Billy Goat said.”
As more people heard about this Florida Trail gathering each year – for Billy Goat is an icon in the long distance hiking community, with more than 50,000 miles walked on the long trails since his retirement – it was necessary to move out of a restaurant and into the woods for a potluck and cookout. Over the years, it’s hopscotched along the trail in the Orlando section, from F. Burton Smith Park in Cocoa to Bear Pond in Seminole State Forest and now to Lake Mills Park in Chuluota, with volunteers picking up thru-hikers along the trail to bring them in for the party.
It is the Florida Trail hiking community’s biggest annual reunion of long distance hikers, past and present. For newbies, it’s the one annual opportunity to show up and meet the legends of the Florida Trail. For past and present hikers, it’s an excellent way to make connections with fellow hikers.
Always held on January 28, Billy Goat Day is open to all. We typically post information about when and where before thru-hiker season begins. The Florida Trail Hikers Alliance provides the cookout – burgers, dogs, veggie options, and more – along with the venue and drinks. Since it is a potluck, we ask that if you are not currently hiking on the trail when you come to the gathering, that you bring a small salad, side dish, or dessert. Donations are welcome, as this is always a big hiker feed!