The waiting is over for all of you strawberry lovers—the Florida Strawberry Festival is finally here! It’s located at the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World in Plant City, between Tampa and Orlando, just off I-4. We went a couple of days ago when the weather was a bit chilly, and the crowd was just about the right size. We were able to enjoy many of the amusement rides without waiting too long in line. We didn’t leave without strawberries.
If you’ve not been to the fest, you might be surprised at the size. It’s rather large, perhaps larger than the Central Florida Fair, yet it has that small town, close community atmosphere. The fest started in the 1930’s in celebration of the bountiful strawberry crops. Today, it’s one of the biggest festivals in Florida. And it’s definitely worth the trip.
The fest offers headline entertainment (see the schedule on the Strawberry Fest website for this season’s entertainers), a midway for kids and adults, live stock sales and contests, pig races, arts and crafts, many demonstrations, and a lot of fun for everyone. As you might guess, strawberry pavilions are everywhere. We stopped and had strawberry crepes, and later toyed with the idea of a strawberry shortcake. We picked up flat of strawberries and carried it out in one of baby strollers we had with us. On the way out, Quaker was giving away cases of Müller™, its new Greek yogurt, as a promotion. We ended up with two cases (I gave my son one of them), and we ate the rest. It’s mighty tasty. It was a challenge to carry the strawberries, the yogurt, two kids, and two large lemonades.
The kiddie rides were reasonably priced. We picked up 20 tickets for $20, which was just about the right number of rides for them. My grandson got stuck in the house of mirrors, and I ended up going in after him. My two grandkids ran around the fest like screaming banshee. We finally got them to settle down long enough to eat corn dogs (corn on stick as my grandson says), french fries, and cotton candy. That held them over until they saw the large lemonade cups, and Jammers, the strawberry character. My grandson ditched us, and ran full speed ahead to give Jammers a big hug.
The Florida Strawberry Growers Association provided an informational booth, and an agricultural demonstration of a strawberry crop. They also gave out free strawberry recipes. Not too far from this area was a souvenir shop that demonstrated the art of rope making. This, too, got my grandson’s attention, and while I was cleaning up the soda his sister spilled, he took off again and joined the demonstration. The person running the demonstration was not too happy about it, and she shooed him off like an unwanted chicken. He nearly cried, but discovered the foot massage machines that were strategically situated near the strawberry shortcake booth.
In addition to the midway, there are a number of vendors that offered a variety of home-made goods and products. We nearly bought a large bag of home-made pork skins, but we didn’t want to carry them around the fair. Another vendor had an awesome display of military aircraft and ground vehicle wood carvings. There were many arts and crafts displays, and I was bummed that we didn’t have the time to visit all of them.
As you might guess, the fest also offers the usual fair food—burgers and dogs, sausages, pizza, fries, snow cones, cotton candy, candy apples, ice cream, and more. Nothing beat the strawberry shortcake or the strawberry crepes, but I liked best the smell of fresh strawberries as we walked back to our car.
It’s $10 if you park near the fest. Kids under 5 are free, but the entrance fee is $10 for each adult. Check the website for the fest hours, and for the daily specials. Visit them on the web or LIKE them on Facebook, and get the latest news straight from the source.