This year marked the 20th anniversary of Plant City’s record-setting attempt to make the world’s largest strawberry shortcake.
PPlant City had long been known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World before Feb. 14, 1999. But on that Sunday afternoon, Plant City also became the strawberry shortcake capital of the world.
McCall Park was the venue for the city’s successful attempt to put together the world’s largest strawberry shortcake, which measured 827.44 square feet in length and weighed a whopping 8,150 pounds. Plant City snatched the Guinness World Record from Quebec, Canada that day.
“(I) saw the record and I just thought that it really belonged to Plant City,” interim Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce president Shannon Riley said in 1999. “Luckily, all these wonderful people that are helping do this today agreed.”
In 1998, the record was held by the city of Watsonville, California for a 175-foot by four-foot shortcake made at the city’s Strawberry Dessert Festival. That one consisted of 260 sheet cakes, 2,400 pounds of berries and 600 pounds of non-dairy whipped topping.
That was the shortcake that initially spurred Riley, Gil Gott and Plant City into action. Thirteen months after Watsonville’s record was set, while Plant City was still planning its own shortcake takeover, a new record was set in Quebec. It wouldn’t last very long.
Twenty-five growers donated freshly picked strawberries for the cause on that Thursday. More than 150 volunteers at St. Clement Catholic Church, one of Plant City’s signature shortcake creators, prepared the berries by de-stemming them, processing them and adding in sugar on that Friday. The contents were kept refrigerated until they were ready to be delivered to McCall Park on that Sunday for the official attempt.
The stage was set up that Valentine’s Day morning. Streets were blocked off and cameramen flocked to the park as Plant Citians, with a little help from Tampa Bay Buccaneers legend Lee Roy Selmon, prepared to make history at 4 p.m.
“This is a great occasion for me, to be part of this world record-setting event,” Selmon said that day.
It only took 35 minutes of laying down the cakes and spreading on the toppings. A new record was born and an entire town was fed for $1 per person. The best part, according to those who were there, was that the strawberry shortcake was more than just edible.
“It was good, oh yeah,” Kenny Peace said.
Plant City no longer owns the world record for the largest strawberry shortcake and it’s unclear whether the city will attempt to reclaim the record in the future. No matter what happens, though, no city or town can take Plant City’s claim of having the world’s best-tasting strawberry shortcake.