78th Annual Strawberry Festival: Time For Music, Rides And, of Course, Shortcake in Plant City


Linda Stanton, left, tops off Nancy Oldham's strawberry shortcake with a strawberry at the St. Clement Catholic Church make-your-own strawberry shortcake booth during last year's festival.

SCOTT WHEELER / Ledger Media Group (2012)
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 6:40 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 6:40 a.m.

Country music star Lorrie Morgan is no stranger to the Florida Strawberry Festival.

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Linda Stanton, left, tops off Nancy Oldham's strawberry shortcake with a strawberry at the St. Clement Catholic Church make-your-own strawberry shortcake booth during last year's festival.

SCOTT WHEELER / Ledger Media Group (2012)

Morgan and Pam Tillis make up the act Grits and Glamour, and they'll take the stage together Monday. Morgan, who has performed several times at the festival, said she is looking forward to coming back.

"I love that event because they give me a lot of strawberries (laughing), and it's a great crowd," Morgan said. "They're pumped up. It's not a real laid-back, you know, a blah-blah-blah crowd. They're really into the show and really appreciate it."

The 78th annual Florida Strawberry Festival begins today in Plant City and continues until March 10.

Each year, the festival is a creative cocktail of midway rides, big-name musical acts and fresh fruit.

The Strawberry Festival had gained a reputation for having a strong music lineup, and this year looks to be one of its best.

Blake Shelton, 2012 CMA Entertainer of the Year, will end the festival with a sold-out concert March 10. Other notable acts on the lineup include country music great Alan Jackson (Sunday), Martina McBride (March 5), Trace Adkins (March 6) and Brantley Gilbert (March 7). This year's show also features some rock music, including former Poison frontman Bret Michaels, performing March 9, and classic rock band Foreigner performing tonight.

People familiar with the Strawberry Festival know the music usually caters more to the country crowd.

"That's something we're kind of trying to get away from," said KeeLee Tomlinson, public relations and media representative for the Strawberry Festival. "We do love country music, but we do love other genres of music as well and so do our patrons. We're trying to bring in a little country, a little rock and roll, Christian contemporary and some gospel.

"We're really trying to bring in the acts that our patrons are looking for."

For those looking for rides, look no farther than the Belle City Midway. This year's midway features more than 85 rides, including four rides never-before seen at the festival. One new ride called Sky Rider is the world's tallest portable midway ride, taking riders 200 feet in the air in a swing.

Tickets for Midway Ride-A-Thon days, which give people unlimited midway rides, will be sold for $20 at the festival today and Monday through March 7.

And, of course, there are the delicious locally grown strawberries. Tomlinson said 150,000 strawberry shortcakes were consumed at last year's festival.

"Come out and enjoy, that's the whole point of the festival," Tomlinson said. "There's so many exciting things about this year. We are creating our masterpiece of fun at the festival this year and we'd like everyone to come out and join us."

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