By Bonnie Mentel
The Florida Strawberry Festival began back in 1930 to celebrate the bountiful harvest of the strawberries. The tradition continues as communities come together to participate in the annual event in Plant City. The fairgrounds will be open from March 3-13 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Headline entertainment, thrill rides, refreshments, and strawberries guarantee that the festival will draw crowds.
“We’re getting excited about it. Every day we’re building something new and trying to make the magic happen,” said General Manager Paul Davis.
Free family-friendly entertainment has been scheduled for the event.
“We’re going to have the Belmont Magic Show, the Circus Incredible (some of the Wallenda family from Sarasota – they’ll be doing high-wire acts), we’ll have Maximus, a robot, very similar to a Transformer walking around and talking to kids. Almost every single day there are acts on our grounds that are free with your paid admission. If you buy your ticket in advance, they are $8, so you can be entertained all day for less than the cost of a movie ticket,” Davis said.
Concert tickets are already selling as fans are getting excited to see their favorite bands. Davis is expecting Donny & Marie to be close to a sell-out, as well as Cole Swindell.
“Merle Haggard is selling really well – he’s a legend. And, one of our better sellers is The Golden Boys: which are Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell,” he said.
Each year the festival adds a couple of new rides and visitors can expect to see close to 90 rides this season. Some of the Midway crowd favorites include The Moonraker, Scorpion, The Giant Wheel, The Ring of Fire, Zero Gravity and Cliffhanger. The Midway opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and 12 Noon on all other days. The SunnyBell Kiddie Korral opens at 10 a.m. daily.
For those who prefer to walk around the grounds and sample the refreshments, there will be plenty to choose from.
“We will have everything you can possibly have in the way of strawberry. There is a little bit of every possible thing you could ever imagine from gator tail to baked Italian goods,” Davis said.
Davis wants people to know that security at the festival is important to him and that measures have been taken to improve security.
“We’re upping our security. We’ve got cameras at the gates. We have extra police officers. We spend a lot of time trying to make it safe. We’re going to be monitoring our cameras and there will be a policeman at every gate, looking for anything unusual. We’ll have undercover police officers walking around looking for any problems. We always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” said Davis.
More information, including concert schedules, can be found at www.flstrawberryfestival.com or by downloading the Florida Strawberry Festival app. If purchasing tickets at the gate, admission is $10 (ages 13+), and $5 (ages 6-12). Parking is $4-10 depending on proximity. Discounted tickets can be bought in advance at Publix, online, or at the Strawberry Festival ticket office located at 2209 W. Oak Avenue in Plant City.
“We’re a little bit off the beaten path, but we’re one of Florida’s best kept secrets,” said Davis. “A little slice of Americana.”