Florida Strawberry Festival in (Where Else?) Plant City!

If you’ve ever been to this grand celebration of Florida’s strawberry season (February through early March) then you know what I’m talking about.

If you haven’t been and you are anywhere in the state of Florida (or want to be) there is only one word – GO!

It started Thursday, February 27th this year and runs through Sunday, March 9.

Daughter and I had never been (in our defense, there’s so much to do in Orlando, it’s hard to escape) but this year we decided to go. And we picked a glorious day for it.

When we first walked in Gate 1

When we first walked in through Gate 1

There is entirely too much going on out there for me to be able to cover it here but follow these guys on Twitter and you’ll get an idea of just how much there is to see, do, eat, and listen to. There’s even a webcam!

We had no idea what to expect (other than the strawberries). We did not expect a magic show full of kids on a field trip (where the magic words are “please” and “thank you”).

The magic words are "please" and "thank you"

The magic words are “please” and “thank you”

We did not expect racing pigs, a primate show with a baboon who has a better film resume than I do, or a giant strawberry with legs. We saw all of those things and more.

It's not every day you see a giant walking strawberry at the pig races

It’s not every day you see a giant walking strawberry at the pig races

We bought things we had never heard of (for my husband, a Mountain Dew fan).

Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew Jelly?

And things we had heard of that came highly recommended

St Clement's make your own strawberry shortcake - not to be missed

St Clement’s make your own strawberry shortcake – not to be missed



We were looking for something to take home to my son (Daughter’s brother) – and we found it

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

These folks know their candy. They hand you a big basket when you walk in. We didn’t expect to buy anything. We were just curious. We filled the basket and had a lot of fun listening to the old couple behind us talk about penny candy from their youth and their joy of finding it again here. It’s not a penny any more, but you definitely get your money’s worth.

I even got a tattoo – sort of (in one of the exhibit halls, not at the candy tent).

The closest I will ever come to getting a tattoo

The closest I will ever come to getting a tattoo

We visited Pioneer Village

Decoy carvers

Decoy carvers

And kids showing off their livestock

New calf

New calf

Napping Cow

Napping Cow

I loved the napping cow with her head on her owner’s lap. “She’s had a busy day,” her owner told us.

We had a late lunch at Valentino’s – great sweet tea, steak sandwiches, and hand made calzones

He used to sell these on the streets of New York

He used to sell these on the streets of New York

which inadvertently led to our favorite discovery of the day – Savannah Jack!

We were eating lunch and I had just tweeted Lee Greenwood (as I tend to do when I hear God Bless the USA being performed) – for more on why I will always love Lee Greenwood and that song go here.

We were chatting with a couple visiting from Indiana who shared the other end of our picnic table, enjoying the sunshine and the music. We were getting ready to go exploring again when we realized the band had changed and the music coming out of the tent was good. Real good. Good enough that we wandered inside to see who it was. (Disclaimer – all the bands we heard were good, but these guys are exceptional).

As I write this I’m listening to their music (yes, we bought their CD – something else we don’t usually do) and the parrot is dancing and whistling along – she likes it too.

They reminded me I used to write songs - and made me want to do it again

They reminded me I used to write songs – and made me want to do it again

We are not “hang around and listen to the band” people. We are doers. We are livers. We are “wring all the life out of the day that there is to be had and then collapse with a smile on our face” people. And we are picky. In my former life I was a choir director and performer in tight knit harmony groups. When we showed up they were doing what they call their speed round – as far as I’m concerned they could do a show composed of nothing but that and I would be perfectly entertained. It’s like musical improv – the audience shouts the name of their favorite band or artist and the guys do a little bit of what’s requested. They did country, Motown, classic rock and whatever else the audience threw at them. Special kudos to the fiddle player and his lightning fast changes between fiddle and guitar. They had a couple of repeat artist requests (we enjoyed the snippet of the 3:00 show so much we came back for the entire 6:00 show) but to their credit they did not repeat the selection they did the first time, which tells me 1) they are not lazy and 2) they know their music (and everyone else’s).

Love these guys!

Daughter and me with Savannah Jack

And the best part is, they are genuinely nice guys as well as incredible musicians. Go see them.

There are lots of rides to ride (until 2 am if you’re so inclined). We put that on the list for next year.

My favorite

My favorite

We stayed late - but not that late

We stayed late – but not that late

Daughter treated me to dinner at Cracker Barrel on the way home. In chatting with the manager we discovered that today he will be riding his palomino in the parade. Go see him, too.

If you want a day full of good old-fashioned fun, good food, good people, good entertainment, good weather (I can almost guarantee there will be no snow) – go to the Strawberry Festival!

It's all about the strawberries, y'all!

It’s all about the strawberries, y’all!