Glancing through all of the events and shows and displays that are offered at the Florida Strawberry Festival can feel overwhelming at times. Luckily for you, the Plant City Observer’s staff is here to help.
When I visit the Florida Strawberry Festival, I make sure to wear my best walking shoes because I don’t want my feet to hurt as I walk the entire festival grounds. I don’t want to miss anything!
I usually enter through Gate #10 and go straight for the Belle City Amusements Midway to get my fill of thrill rides, the scarier the better. An all-you-can-ride armband is a must! I love the Zipper because you get secured in a free-flipping cage suspended on an axis that also spins, creating an unpredictable clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation. After I get my fill of thrills, I head to the Grimes Agricultural Center and check out the livestock. The sites and smells take me back to my childhood on our family farm. My favorites are the diary cows and steer.
By now I’m hungry for some festival food. A few of my favorite stops are the St. Clement “make your own” strawberry shortcake booth, Fiske French fries and Amish doughnuts.
After refueling, it’ll be time for a ride on the new Berry Big Wheel, located near Neighborhood Village. I plan on riding it when I need to take a break (the wheel spins riders for a full ten minutes which will be plenty of time to relax and enjoy the view from a gondola 15 stories high).
After the ride, I’ll head over to Neighborhood Village to see handiwork from local artisans and craftsmen, watch some entertainment at the Stingray Chevrolet Entertainment Tent or Publix Showcase Tent (maybe Martin & Kelly or Rekindled Bits of Grass).
By this point, I’m back at the gate I came in…and probably ready to head home after a long day enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the Festival.
I’ve often gone on the record saying that my favorite thing about the Florida Strawberry Festival is the food… from strawberry shortcakes to smoked turkey legs to strawberry brisket tacos, the options are endless. But when you’ve finally had your fill of all the unique edible concoctions that the festival has to offer, there are plenty of events across the festival grounds to enjoy — without adding to that calorie count!
One-of-a-kind eating contests will be held throughout the festival, sure to leave you amazed by the gastronomical feats achieved by the participants. Some of the eating contests are a bit more traditional, by festival standards at least, like the Amish Donut Eating Contest on March 3 or the Super Dog Mega Corndog Eating Contest on March 8. Others bring a bit more absurdity to the table — no pun intended — like the Strawberry Spaghetti Eating Contest on March 6 or the Strawberry Mashed Potato Pie Eating Contest on March 10. If the engorgement of others for your entertainment isn’t quite your speed, you’re not out of luck yet. The Demonstration of Strawberry Production exhibit is held by the Florida Strawberry Growers Association and can be found just west of the Publix Showcase Tent, featuring a miniature strawberry field with farming equipment on site and knowledgable professionals that can answer all of your questions about strawberries and the massive industry that surrounds them. And if you head to Neighborhood Village you will find a room dedicated to the festival’s contest and pageant winners, with ribbons marking the top-ranked preserves, jellies, jams, cakes and other baked or preserved goods.
While in Neighborhood Village, make sure you spend some time giving the room a look around. In addition to their food-based contest winners, there are numerous displays that highlight the winners of other contests that range from woodworking to scrapbooking and knitting. But arguably the most beautiful display in Neighborhood Village is the Strawberry Queen’s exhibit, two rows adorned with lace and red carpet that shines a light on this year’s queen, one former featured queen and every other Strawberry Queen in the pageant’s history, dating back to 1930.
For animal lovers, the Patterson Co. Livestock Arena will play host to several livestock shows throughout the entirety of the festival. For more fun, you can check out the Dairy Costume Ball on March 5 or the Lamb Costume Contest and Lamb Jumping Contest on March 6. For more serious livestock enthusiasts, the arena will hold livestock shows at different times almost every day, but my personal favorite animal event is Robinson’s Racing Pigs, offering you a chance to see the little porkers speed their way around an enclosed race track and obstacle course each day at 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
And don’t forget to stop by Stingray Chevrolet vehicle display to purchase your raffle tickets and enter to win the brand new 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible that will be raffled off on the final day of the festival.