By Michelle Colesanti

Every year thousands head to the Plant City Strawberry Festival to enjoy the food, rides and the many types of entertainment. The Strawberry Festival has always been noted for its headline music entertainment and this year is no exception. With afternoon and evening concerts taking place every day, there is something for everyone.

Country artists are a staple at the Strawberry Festival. Charley Pride and Josh Turner appear on Thursday, March 3. Other country performers include Mickey Gilley and Big & Rich on Friday, March 4; Shenandoah on Sunday, March 6; Gene Watson and Lonestar on Monday, March 7. Trace Adkins will entertain on Tuesday evening, March 8. On Wednesday, March 9 Ray Stevens and Martina McBride entertain. The Oak Ridge Boys will perform a matinee concert on Thursday, March 10. Over the last weekend, enjoy popular country stars, Tanya Tucker, Cole Swindell, Merle Haggard and closing out the Festival on Sunday, March 13 is The Band Perry.

If country music is not your thing, there are plenty of artists representing other genres that will entertain.

If you enjoy Christian-based music, check out Casting Crowns on Thursday, March 10. LeCrae, a two-time Grammy Award-winning American Christian hip hop artist will appear on Saturday, March 5 at 3:30 p.m. LeCrae redefines mainstream popular culture, embracing what makes him a man and that includes his faith.

If you enjoy R&B, check out Charlie Wilson, an American R&B singer, songwriter, producer. He has been nominated for 11 Grammy awards and six NAACP Image Awards He will perform on Saturday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m.

Enjoy an afternoon of entertainment on Sunday, March 13 when Indie Pop favorite Echosmith takes the stage at 3:30 p.m. The band hails from California. Their debut album in 2013 Talking Dreams, featured hit Cool Kids.

Rockers Cheap Trick will take the stage on Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Donnie & Marie will entertain on Sunday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m.

To purchase tickets, visit, visit the Amscot Main Ticket Office located at 2209 W. Oak Ave. in Plant City or call 754-1996.

*****UPDATE*****Merle Haggard cancels festival show, replaced with Kris Kristofferson

The Florida Strawberry Festival announced today that Merle Haggard has canceled his performance at the 2016 event due to health concerns.

“Due to a persistent reoccurring bout of double pneumonia, Merle Haggard is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Calif. and has had to postpone his concert dates in March,” said a Haggard representative. “He looks forward to seeing his fans on his next tour in April. However, per doctor’s orders, he is going to take one more month off from life on the road to rest and recover.”

The 11-day event’s entertainment committee has confirmed Kris Kristofferson as the replacement performer for the 3:30 p.m. show on Saturday, March 12.

“We are saddened to learn that Merle Haggard won’t be able to join us,” said Florida Strawberry Festival General Manager Paul Davis. “But we believe we have secured an outstanding replacement whose fan base is very similar to Mr. Haggard’s.”

Kristofferson, a 79-year-old country singer/songwriter and Golden Globe winning actor, is best known for his hits “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and more. He has recorded 27 albums, including three with Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson as part of the Highwaymen. Kristofferson previously toured with Haggard and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, among numerous other accolades.

Tickets already purchased to Merle Haggard’s show can be used for Kris Kristofferson’s show or can be refunded in full by March 10, said Davis. Refund requests and questions about the show should be directed to the festival’s Amscot Main Ticket Office located at 2209 W. Oak Avenue in Plant City. The ticket office can also be reached at 813-719-6680 or through email at customerserv@flstrawberryfestival.

Tickets to Kris Kristofferson’s show can be purchased for $35 at, over the phone or at the Amscot Main Ticket Office.

“Kris Kristofferson is the epitome of a country legend,” said Davis. “He is a timeless performer and songwriter and will be a terrific fit for our festival.”

About the Florida Strawberry Festival

The Florida Strawberry Festival is an 11-day community event celebrating the strawberry harvest
of Eastern Hillsborough County. Each year, nearly 500,000 visitors enjoy the festival’s
headline entertainment, youth livestock shows, exhibits of commerce and, of course, its
strawberry shortcake. The 2016 Florida Strawberry Festival takes place March 3 through March 13 in Plant City, Fla. and will be “Royal Fun for Everyone!” For more information, visit, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (#berryfest16).

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.