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Arts / Culture

Florida Strawberry Festival Celebrates Its 85th Anniversary

A strawberry patch lies within the middle of The Florida Strawberry Festival as visitors walk by and admire the growing fruit.
Thomas Iacobucci
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WUSF Public Media
Nearly 600,000 people are expected to attend the Florida Strawberry Festival, which celebrates its 85th anniversary this year.

The Florida Strawberry Festival is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, and organizers of the Plant City tradition plan to give the 600,000 expected attendees the things that have brought them back for decades: music, community, and lots of strawberries.

The annual festival, honoring Florida’s strawberry harvest, opened Thursday and will run through March 8.

The theme this year is "2020: Our Perfect Vision." About 2,500 volunteers from around the area will help during the event.

“This is the biggest thing that happens to Plant City every year and we all want to see it be successful,” said Brian West, Associate Director of the Festival.

For the anniversary, organizers prepared new attractions, such as dog shows, magic performances and cooking master classes. They also brought in renowned musical acts like Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as local artists like Stephanie Ann.

“We spend a lot of money on entertainment and that is definitely one of the major draws here as well,” West said.

However, what really makes the festival so popular, according to West, is the atmosphere and the community.

“When you walk in the gates here at the Florida Strawberry Festival, you feel like you're part of a family. It's a very intimate setting. It's safe, and there's a lot to do and a lot to eat,” he said.

A women is served a strawberry to complete her strawberry shortcake order.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
A strawberry is the perfect topping to shortcake. A woman attending the Florida Strawberry Festival gets ready to enjoy dessert from the St. Clement Catholic Church's Shortcake stand.

Besides the traditional strawberry shortcake, this year’s festival menu includes items like a strawberry cheesecake elephant ear, apple fries, and deep-fried tacos.

Men in hats and aprons stand in a kitchen preparing baked goods.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Members of the St. Clement Catholic Church prepare whipped cream and other ingredients to go along with the main dish, strawberry shortcake.
Strawberries are sorted into square batches, filling the frame of the photo.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Sorted into batches and prepared for sale, fresh strawberries can be found across the festival grounds.

“If you've never experienced the Florida Strawberry Festival, you need to come and visit at least once. And if you'll come once we know that you're going to come again,” West added.

Two children pose for a photo on a tractor with a tractor and a strawberry patch in the background.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Carrie McCleskey had her sons pose on a tractor Friday at the Florida Strawberry Festival.

A mother and daughter pull on a rope in an interactive experience with a member of Pioneer Village.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Jessica Johnson, right, and daughter Emilia, make rope with one of the members of Pioneer Village, an interactive feature at the Florida Strawberry Festival that showcases how people at the turn of the 20th century lived and worked.

Albert Phillips sits in a workshop while demonstrating how to carve a piece of wood.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Albert Phillips, a traditional chair maker, demonstrates the process of wood working and wood carving at Pioneer Village during the second day of the Florida Strawberry Festival.

Joyce Cooper sits on a porch while practicing stick weaving.
Credit Thomas Iacobucci / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Joyce Cooper, a member of the Pioneer Village at the Florida Strawberry Festival, sits on a porch while practicing the art of stick weaving.

The Florida Strawberry Festival runs through March 8 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit the festival’s website.

Daily Highlights and Headline Performers
(all shows are in the Fairgrounds Stadium, please check the website for ticket prices)

Saturday, Feb. 29
11 a.m. Youth Parade / Free Kids Day (all children through high school age admitted free)
3:30 p.m. Roots & Boots Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw & Collin Raye
7:30 p.m. An Evening with 98 Degrees

Sunday, March 1
Coca-Cola Family Day
3:30 p.m. Bobby Bones & the Raging Idiots
7:30 p.m. Reba McEntire (sold out)

Monday, March 2
1 p.m. Grand Parade / Ride-A-Thon Day
3:30 p.m. Neal McCoy
7:30 p.m. Patti LaBelle

Tuesday, March 3
TWOSDAY (All children up to 17 admitted free w/paid adult) / Ride-A-Thon Day
3:30 p.m. Sara Evans
7:30 p.m. Skillet

Wednesday, March 4
American Heroes Day (all active, reserve and retired military veterans, law enforcement and first responders are admitted free with valid ID) / Ride-A-Thon Day
3:30 p.m. Chubby Checker and the Wildcats
7:30 p.m. Josh Turner

Thursday, March 5
Seniors Day (anyone 60 and older gets $2 off gate admission) / Ride-A-Thon Day
10:30 a.m. Ricky Nelson Remembered (The Nelson Brothers) (free show)
3:30 p.m. Dick Fox’s Golden Boys Starring Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell
7:30 p.m. MercyMe

Friday, March 6
Tampa Bay Times Day on the Midway / Moonlight Magic (discount for rides after 10 p.m.)
3:30 p.m. Jimmy Fortune and Dailey & Vincent
7:30 p.m. Darci Lynne & Friends: Fresh Out of the Box Tour

Saturday, March 7
Farm Worker Appreciation Day / Wristband Day (discount for rides w/purchase of wristband)
3:30 p.m. Battle of the Bands Finals (free show)
7:30 p.m. Charlie Wilson

Sunday, March 8
Coca-Cola Family Day
3:30 p.m. Eli Young Band
7:30 p.m. Lynyrd Skynyrd