This past weekend we visited the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida- about 30 minutes northeast of Tampa. The 10-day festival started in 1930 as a small gathering to honor the harvesting of the strawberries. Today it is an enormous festival attracting a half million visitors each year and features carnival rides, flea market-style vendors and tons of food options. Each year the festival attracts major musical acts like Blake Sheldon and Rascal Flatts.
I have always wanted to go to the Strawberry Festival and have just never taken the time to go. Chad and I were able to get discount tickets at our local Publix for $8 a piece and found $5 parking near the Festival grounds. (hint: many of the local residents near the Festival allow people to park on their lawns for $5- otherwise, expect to pay $10 anywhere else.)
As we walked towards the gates we realized the magnitude of this event. This thing was HUGE. First thing we did was make our way over to the carnival rides- not to ride, but to look at the crazy people who thought flipping upside down 50 feet in the air was fun…..
There were several haunted houses, Ferris wheels and areas for water bumper boats…..
We oggled at the insane people who spun around in a gravity chamber…..
We enjoyed watching people who rode on the “Berry” Go-Round.
We marveled at all the food vendors offering funnel cakes, turkey legs, corn dogs and ice cream…..
And of course there were plenty of strawberries and treats with strawberries…. .
We eventually found something we couldn’t resist. A place that will fry anything. From Oreos to Pepsi to Butter to Candy Bars- anything. They would probably fry my shoe if I asked them to.
We settled on trying the fried Twix bars and wow! They were unbelievable and surprisingly tasty. I loved how the chocolate was melted into the fried batter.
We knew we couldn’t survive on sweets alone so we decided to begin the hunt for vegetables. Could we find vegetables at the fair? Well, yes, but they were fried of course.
We found a place that offered a basket of fried veggies- we had fried onions, tomatoes, pickles, mushrooms, cauliflower and broccoli.
Listen, it wasn’t the healthiest of things, but at least we had some broccoli yes?
We also had some freshly squeezed lemonade- definitely a very popular item on a warm spring day in Central Florida.
And of course, why does one come to the strawberry festival? For the strawberries of course! Perhaps the most famous food here is the Strawberry Shortcake. It was very good. So much whipped cream though- we will be running lots and lots of extra laps around the track this week.
As we enjoyed the sights, the people, the shows and the rides, we also knew we couldn’t leave without bringing home some of the strawberries offered by local farmers. We paid $7 for a half flat of the berries (a half flat consists of 6 pints.) That was enough for us to eat strawberries morning, noon and night for the next week. Luckily we got a great tip from one of the farmers to chop off the green parts and freeze the berries for smoothies and ice cream.
We also picked up some locally grown sweet onions…..
Here’s a hint though- wait to buy your strawberries until after you exit the festival. There were a ton of vendors outside the gates offering the berries at $4 for a half flat or $7 for a full flat (12 pints.)
We had a ““berry” good time!! (sorry, had to do it!!)
Is there a fair in your area that you visit every year?