2022 Strawberry Festival once again offered fans' favorite artists
The Florida Strawberry Festival wouldn’t have been complete without the musical performances that amplify the fairgrounds and add to the festive mood.
It was a contrast from last year’s festival which was missing concerts that visitors anticipate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether performing on the soundstage or in the tents, this year’s artist lineup brought a variety of genres to the stages including rock, R&B, Latin, and country.
Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra, The Beach Boys, Boyz II Men, Kirstie Kraus, and SickHot were some of almost 40 musical acts that performed at this year’s festival.
One notable country artist that graced the Wish Farms Soundstage was Gene Watson, whose show was on Friday, March 11.
Within his 60-year career, he has put out 34 albums, 72 records that were on the charts, and has had six No.1 hits.
On stage, Watson was entertaining the crowd by making jokes with his band members in between songs.
Edward and Helen McNabb were several out of many to visit Florida.
In fact, they’re from Ontario, Canada and one of the main things that drew them to the festival was to see Watson perform, they said. They are fans not only of the country singer, but of the Strawberry Festival which they have been attending for about 20 years.
Rob Murray said he was thrilled to see Watson live and to sing is favorite song “Fourteen Carat Mind.”
Murray has attended the festival for 35 of his 36 years, and it never gets old, said the Plant City resident.
“It shows how the city itself is growing and how people are noticing this little town between Tampa and Orlando,” he said. “It used to be off the map…It’s growing and becoming more well known and kind of putting us out there.” He anticipates next year’s artists, which may be more of his favorite ones.
“I look forward to the country concerts every year,” Murray said. “I’m waiting anxiously in November when they release the lineup.”
Harold Stall and his wife too, are from Ontario and couldn’t wait to get away from the cold weather and listen to Watson sing.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here and what draws me down is the concerts,” he said. “We spend our time in Florida during the winter, so when we hear a good country concert…I like to see some of the displays.”
For patrons who enjoy listening to smooth R&B, then the Entenmann’s Strawberry Tent was a great spot to hear the group Kazual.
The quartet is made up of Dmac, Ejae, Playboi, and Lil Gabe.
They’ve performed over 150 shows in the past year and had a spot on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent.”
They took the audience back in time to the 1980s by playing hits like “Celebration” by the group Kool and the Gang.
Then they sang hits from the early 1990s and early 2000s such as “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe, and “Let Me Love You” by Mario.
The reception was positive during their 11-day performances, they said.
“It’s been wonderful,” Playboi said. “They show us a lot of love and support…We’re like family here, so we want to keep this going annually.”
The group initially met the Florida Strawberry Festival President Paul Davis in Las Vegas and he asked them to perform at the festival.
The diversity and the different demographics among their audience is what they love most about attending the annual event.
And their roots played a significant role in them forming the group.
“We have a church background,” Dmac said. “We grew up up around music, so music was our life. When we were young, we started the group. We just love doing music and music is inside of us.”
The Bellamy Brothers
Plant City’s own Chaplain Daniel Middlebrooks was all smiles when he exited the GT Grandstands, having seen the Bellamy Brothers perform live at the festival. They sang their hits at the Wish Farms Soundstage on the last day of the festival, Sunday, March 13.
“We have music that’s just fun and it’s fun not just because of the lyrics, it’s fun because it gets everybody singing,” Middlebrooks said.
Howard and David Bellamy have been performing for over 40 years.
They started off embracing pop music and in the 1980s began to venture into the world of country music.
They gained prominence with their hit song “Spiders and Snakes” which helped them sell over 3 million copies.
Middlebrooks said his favorite song that he finally heard them perform was “Redneck Girl.”
“When they sing and draw you in, and they encourage you, and they walk with you, and they’re still doing music as seasoned as they are,” he said, “why wouldn’t people come out and be a part of those who are not icons, but those who become family members.”
It was a packed stadium with concertgoers who came out to see hip-hop, R&B and country singer, Nelly.
He is a three-time Grammy Award-winning artist, with the No.1 on the chart single “Dilemma.”
The crowd sang along and danced as he performed his hits such as “E.I.,” “Ride Wit Me,” and “Shake Your Tailfeather,” on Saturday, March 12.
Elena Adang said she came out that evening only to see him perform.
“I’ve been a Nelly fan since day one,” she said. “I was very happy to hear “Grillz” because I can rap all the lyrics, but I was also very excited to hear “Country Grammar.”
Alex Rae Rhoades and Drew Herrera came together for the show.
“I made sure to get my tickets the day they went on sale,” Rhoades said.
Herrera likes that Nelly doesn’t confine himself to just one genre but branches out.
“My favorite is that he mixes with country music,” she said. “In college I loved his music and I still do.”
The two ladies were among many in the crowd who worked their way up to the stage during the closing songs.
It was an eventful Strawberry Festival that had what seemed like endless choices of music to listen to for 11 days.
Those who attend the festival next year may see some of their reoccurring or newly performing artists come on stage.