Inarguably one of the most cherished traditions of Florida Strawberry Festival goers is to sit back and enjoy the Strawberry Youth Parade and Grand Parade as they slowly roll through town. Here’s everything you need to know to be ready to have the best parade day ever.
The Strawberry Festival Youth parade is on Feb. 29 and will be led by Grand Marshal Mary-Catherine Stephens. Stephens is a 17-year-old Plant City High School student and her experience volunteering and leading in and out of the classroom vaulted her to the honored role of grand marshal for the event.
At 11 a.m. the many floats, marching bands, schools and organizations that participate in the parade will line up and head out from the State Farmer’s Market on Alexander Street. Hundreds of people will be lining the streets to wave at the young parade participants and there’s a few key spots to keep in mind if you want to get the best seats for the event.
The parade will leave the State Farmer’s Market from the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Alexander Street and head north on Alexander Street before turning west onto Reynolds Street. It passes right by the festival grounds on Reynolds Street and then disburses around the Sammonds Road area.
Most who camp out for the parade will be found hugging the sidewalks on Reynolds Street or on Alexander Street between the State Farmer’s Market and South Florida Baptist Hospital. There’s always empty space near the festival grounds, so if you don’t mind the sun — or are prepped enough to bring an umbrella — bring your chairs to the sidewalk and enjoy the parade before you head into the festival grounds.
The youth parade is full of local children of all ages and always is a blast for families of all ages. Immediately following the parade is the awards ceremony, which is held at 1 p.m. in the Stingray Chevrolet Entertainment tent at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
On Monday, March 2, the entire city comes to a halt in preparation for the Grand Parade, led by Grand Marshal Gail Lyons. If you’ve never been to Plant City on parade day, a word to the wise: get to where you need to go early because the streets will shut down and remain so until the massive onslaught of floats, trucks, marching bands and other parade goers have cleared the area.
The parade forms at the Plant City Plaza behind Save-A-Lot on Prosser Street, Evers Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It then moves north on Evers Street and west on Reynolds Street before it eventually passes the festival grounds. Then it takes one last turn onto Sammonds Street where the participants will unload and quickly disperse.
But the affair is so much more than simply the parade. Homes along Reynolds Street have house parties that last all day long. Chairs are placed along Evers Street sometimes up to 48 hours in advance in the middle of the night as people fight for the perfect location.
There’s usually food — though sometimes the parties are more adult-themed — and they last long into the afternoon before the attendees begin to trickle into the festival for the entertainment that evening.
Roots Tap Room and Wine Bar, 101 S. Evers St., is officially the very first bar to host a Grand Parade watch party along the parade route. Though still the new kid on the block, Roots has quickly become a staple in the community. Thanks to owners Brandon Snyder and Jerilyn Rumbarger’s community mindsets, the business is always throwing festive events and acting as the definitive meeting place for friends, coworkers and sometimes even strangers.
The business has outdoor seating right in front of the bar and tables are already being reserved by those wanting to have a first-class view of the Grand Parade. Roots will open at 12 p.m. for the event and feature strawberry beers and ciders, as well as catering by Norma’s Plant City Cuban Sandwich Shop. Call 813-756-5400 for more information.
If it’s your very first time coming to the Grand Parade, practice the art of preparation and patience. The earlier you camp out for your spot, the better chance you will have of getting a good view of the parade. Reynolds and Evers streets are normally filled to capacity with onlookers, but there are always a few open spots for those who can get there early enough to avoid the closed streets.
The route along Alexander and toward the festival grounds typically is a little leaner on parade watchers, but it still pulls an impressive attendance. Get there as soon as you can, bring some food and lots of water and then simply sit back and relax. Before you know it the massive berry-themed parade will arrive.
The parade begins at 1 p.m. in downtown Plant City and will pass by the festival grounds at approximately 2 p.m.