What is being done to keep the Florida Strawberry Festival safe?
Strawberry Festival General Manager Paul Davis and new Senior Festival Administrator Tim Lovett spoke recently at Plant City Downtown Luncheon Club. Both are retired from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office with over 50 years of security-related experience between them. These two Plant City natives have brought the family values they had growing up in our community back to Plant City.
At the meeting, the two covered a wide range of festival operations and successes. They also spoke about some of the new strategies and methods they learned with HCSO they put in place to keep the over-600,000 people who visit the festival every year safe.
As the second-largest festival in Florida, the Florida Strawberry Festival is called a soft target in the security world. That is, it contains a large collection of people in a confined space and could be an attractive target for violence by extremist individuals or groups.
To counter this threat, Davis and Lovett have hardened the security of the festival. With careful research on the legality of their new methods, they search every vehicle and visitor before they enter the festival grounds. Electronic wands and hand searches are some of the methods used. Foot and golf cart patrols in the inside of the fenced-in area are also used to increase 360-degree security.
To further reduce the risk of violence, the festival has rejected a sponsorship offer from a local beer distributor. Accepting such an offer would have increased festival revenue substantially, but family values and security came first.
Keeping Plant City safe and thanking the policemen, firemen and first responders who work to keep us safe are goals of Plant City’s Noon Rotary in a Community Appreciation Event the club will host from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the Randy Larson Softball Four-Plex on Park Road.
The whole community is invited to this free, fun event, especially families. Free food and drinks will be available, and children will be able to enjoy bounce houses and a dunk tank. The Plant City Police Department and Plant City Fire Rescue will offer demonstrations with police dogs and trucks, and HCSO will have a helicopter on display. The first 500 children will receive a free back-to-school bag.
Our Plant City leaders are helping to keep us safe by implementing current best security practices, by continuing to emphasize family values and by bringing together those who keep us safe and those they protect.
Felix Haynes is a co-owner of the Plant City Times & Observer.