- Chip Weiner
- United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pays a visit to the St. Clements Catholic Church strawberry shortcake booth. The exhibit has been a part of the strawberry festival for over 40 years. Vilsack was given a flat of specially selected strawberries from Parkesdale farm and then sampled shortcake Plant City style
The 2013 Florida Strawberry Festival began Thursday and runs for 11 days. The event takes place in Plant City, the winter strawberry capital of the world according to the city's website. The Florida Strawberries Growers Association says the sweet fruit is available from December through April every year and is grown on approximately 8000 acres around Florida.
Strawberry shortcake is what it's all about. It's really more strawberries and whipped cream than shortcake. In the "make your own" exhibit, you are given a choice of a biscuit (the tradition for 40 years) or shortcake (those yellow round hollowed out pieces of cake that you get at the store) and then sent through the line. You can add as many strawberries and as much whipped cream as you like. At the end of the line you will be given a fresh "topper" berry and it comes out looking like this.
There's lots to see and do at the festival. Several entertainment tents and a main stage bring local talent and national acts. In this photo the audience watches as The Gothard Sisters, an Irish music and dance group from the Pacific Northwest, performs in the Sweetbay supermarket tent.
Strawberries are everything at this festival (umm … thus the name). And it's not just shortcake. Also available are strawberry T-shirts, strawberry jewelry, strawberry jam, strawberry elephant ears, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry purses, strawberry tea, strawberry ice cream … you get the picture. it's all about a heart-shaped red fruit.
The one thing I didn't find… this being a fair and all… was deep fried strawberries.
There's lots to do on the midway as well. Several tents offer caricatures. Here, Leon and Kyla get theirs drawn by Paul Evinaze while their friend Tiffany watches.
Of course there are tons of rides. Lauren Taylor, Jared Hudson, and Alyssa Anthony begin their ascent on the 118 foot Drop Zone. After they reach the top it's as if the bottom falls out. They free fall for about 100 feet. Think of a cable snapping in an elevator.
"I'll guess your weight within three pounds, your age within two years, or just your birth month within two months," hawked the worker at this booth. He guessed 23, she was 28. She got her pick of any prize!
It wouldn't be a strawberry festival without bull riding. 10-year-old Clayton Nieves of Ruskin tries his hand at the mechanical bull.
There's also lots of fair food. In this image there are over 10 food vendors in sight. Bring your appetite (and maybe some Zantac).
Florida Strawberry Festival runs until March 10. All of the shows and exhibits are free with general admission.Tickets for the reserved section of the major concerts including Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, and Trace Adkins are available online. General admission discount tickets are available at Sweetbay Supermarkets.