Plant City and the rest of the United States look forward to honoring those who keep parks and activities running smoothly every July.
Plant City’s love of its parks is no secret, and you don’t have to spend very long in this strawberry town to see that.
The Recreation and Parks Department works hard year-round to make Plant City a hot spot for sports tournaments and to give residents fulfilling, fun experiences. Though National Parks and Recreation Month doesn’t officially begin until July, city officials couldn’t wait any longer than Monday night’s commission meeting to get the ball rolling.
Longtime director Jack Holland received a proclamation at the commission meeting for his steadfast commitment to the department and making Plant City a better, more fun place to live and play. Mayor Rick Lott had plenty of praise for Holland and the city’s department.
Lott commended Holland and the department for its work and the immense positive impact the city’s sports programs have had on area youth.
“Everywhere you look in our program, there’s the process of raising great children and the future of Plant City,” Lott said. “Just a couple of weeks ago, we had boys from Plant City High School and Strawberry Crest High School play for the state championship. Those were Little League kids that came out of the Plant City system. We have the U17 Plant City Lancers girls, they won a state championship and the regional championship and they’re down to the final four teams for the national championship. They’re playing in two weeks… isn’t that amazing? Raised right here, all here, live here, train here in Plant City… we wouldn’t have those success stories if it wasn’t for the programs you and your team run.”
Commissioner Mary Mathis also weighed in on the PCRPD youth sports programs, having also seen firsthand what they do.
“My grandson plays soccer and there were 1,200 young people out there on that soccer field during the city’s events, so it was something to see. And Jack, they had it organized and I was just amazed,” Mathis said. “So, keep doing what you’re doing, I appreciate that.”
Other important work done by Holland and the department includes creating and maintaining top-quality playing fields and facilities that draw countless sports tournaments and events, from travel soccer and baseball tournaments in January to the United Youth Football League national championship tournaments in December, nearly every weekend and stimulate the local economy.
“I travel all over the state and other Parks and Recreation departments, they don’t look like ours,” Lott said. “They don’t have the quality of fields, the quality of grass, the quality of equipment. We just look heads and toes better than any community out there I’ve gone to around the state. We’re very proud of our department.”
One of the city’s biggest events, the 14th annual Fourth of July celebration at Plant City Stadium, is on deck and Holland and his team are hard at work making sure it goes off without a hitch. This year’s free, family-friendly celebration kicks off at 6 p.m. with fireworks scheduled to light up the Plant City skies beginning at 9:15 p.m. There will be face painting, food, games, a rock wall and bungee jumper, live music and much more. Parking opens at 5:30 p.m. and costs $5 per car.
Staff Writer Breanne Williams contributed to this report.