A view of the youth steer sale at the 2024 Florida Strawberry Festival. (Photo courtesy of Linda Chion.)

The 2024 Florida Strawberry Festival has entered the books for at least two impressive milestones: stellar attendance and a stunning amount of support for youth steer exhibitors.

That would come as a result of the Mosaic Youth Steer Sale, held on March 9 at the Patterson Co. Livestock Arena in the Charlie Grimes Family Agricultural Center, located at the Florida Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds in Plant City. In support of their future projects and activities, and for their hard work raising, training and showing steer, this year’s youth contenders reportedly raised more than $1.4 million.

Given the exact number reported, not counting 21 cents, that translates into 1,436,107 nods of approval for local youth, which in turn sets a steer sale record, according to festival officials.

In the arena three days earlier, the grand champion and reserve grand champion were named, giving Kiah Swilley, a member of the Durant High School FFA chapter, and Bella Ballard, a member of the Youth Leaders in Production Agriculture Chapter, nights to remember for a lifetime. Ballard exhibited what was to become the overall grand champion steer, while Swilley showed the overall reserve grand champion steer.

According to fair officials, the grand champion buyers were Enhanced Healthcare LLC, Drop the Walls Boutique and Westcoast Enterprises. MNM Construction was the reserve grand champion buyer. In reporting that 115 youth steer exhibitors earned more than $1 million, festival officials in a Facebook post told the buyers, “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for your support of these outstanding young people.”

Overall, the 89th Florida Strawberry Festival ended its 11-day run on March 10 with attendance clocking in at 634,779 attendees. As Kyle Robinson, festival president, put it, “this year’s festival was an incredible success.”

Featuring in the mix of expected festival attractions, including local entertainment, school exhibits and blue-ribbon arts and crafts standouts, this year’s festival marked the 50th year volunteers from St. Clement manned the Plant City Roman Catholic church’s “make your own strawberry shortcake” booth.

“Our objective when we started in 1974 was to buy property and pay off the mortgage,” said Kevin McFaul, a church member for some 35 years, who said last year’s efforts reduced the mortgage by about $500,000.

This year’s St. Clement booth, one of three to offer strawberry shortcake at the annual event, reported sales of 79,618 shortcakes, McFaul said. “We have a saying in our parish,” he added. “Our church is built on a foundation of God, but paid for with strawberries.”

Previous articleEye On Business; Riverview/Apollo Beach, April 2024
Next articleUSF Opens Cutting-edge DOD Lab Aimed At Providing Military Solutions