Two of the most cherished events of the Florida Strawberry Festival are the Grand Parade and the Strawberry Youth Parade.
No festival would be complete without an elaborate parade. Luckily Plant City has not one, but two during the Florida Strawberry Festival to ensure attendees get maximum fun from their visit.
The first parade is the Strawberry Youth Parade on March 2. It kicks off at 11 a.m. from the State Farmers Market on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Alexander Street. Once it’s in full swing it continues north on Alexander Street and west on Reynolds Street. The parade will pass the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds on Reynolds Street and disburse near Sammonds Road.
If you’ve been around for a festival before, you know what parades mean to this town. Folks will have their lawn chairs out and on full display at their parade viewing spot hours, if not days, before the actual event. Plant City Police will have officers in the area prior to the event to close streets and control traffic prior and during the parade. If you’re planning to go to the festival during or even up to an hour prior to the parade you may need to consider an alternate route as some of the main intersections through town will be closed down well in advance to increase safety for the event.
The Youth Parade is full of participants under the age of 18 and their chaperones. You’ll see a lot of schools, clubs and churches as they are all involved with the youth. Many compete for best float, which could come with a trophy and a $100 prize. Dr. Dan Middlebrooks will announce the 2019 parade from a designated location near South Florida Baptist Hospital. If you want to see floats and marching bands linger, try to get as close to that spot as possible. Fairgoers will set up camp at the festival grounds to watch it as it passes by.
This year the Youth Parade will be led by Grand Marshal Katelyn Yarbrough. This Plant City High School senior has a weighted GPA over 7.2 and is involved in a variety of organizations and extracurriculars. The Awards Program for winners in each category will be announced in the Stingray Entertainment Tent 12:30 p.m. at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
Of the two, the Youth Parade is shorter and wraps up within an hour. The Grand Parade on March 4 is an entirely different story. The parade itself kicks off at 1 p.m. in downtown Plant City, but roads throughout downtown will be shut down hours prior.
The parade will form at the Plant City Plaza (behind Save-A-Lot) on Prosser Street, Evers Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It will then move north on Evers and west on Reynolds before eventually passing the festival grounds. It takes a final turn south on Sammonds St. and the parade participants will begin to unload.
Plant City makes the Grand Parade a pseudo holiday. Many businesses take the day off and chairs are roped off throughout downtown and Reynolds Street well in advance to the actual parade.
If you’re lucky enough to live on one of the above mentioned streets you will probably be throwing a viewing party and dozens will flock to take in a lunch and watch the festivities.
Those coming to town specifically to watch the parade should consider camping out in downtown along Evers Street early that morning or further down Reynolds near the festival grounds. Parking is nonexistent along Reynolds in historic downtown so it becomes tricky to navigate finding the perfect spot. According to prior estimates from parade committee members, approximately 30,000 people will pack the parade route to watch the extremely long, but overwhelmingly festive event.
If you have children be sure to bring snacks, sunscreen and a massive bag for all the goodies they will catch. Those on floats or in vehicles along the route toss out candy, toys, strawberry-themed merchandise, beads and a large variety of eclectic items. If you are able to snag a place toward the start of the route the tossers are always throwing larger quantities than they do further down the route.
By the time the parade wraps up people are headed out for one last errand before they run home to begin cooking dinner and wrapping up their day. It’s a great day to go to the festival if you don’t want to run into any locals, but you’ll definitely miss out on one of the greatest traditions of the whole event.