Red berries run rampant

Red. Ripe. Luscious. Mouth-watering. Strawberries. Not one, not two, but enough to have an 11-day festival dedicated to them. Plant City kicks off strawberry season with the 2007 Florida Strawberry Festival, which runs until March 11.

Located just a few miles east of Tampa, Plant City is aptly crowned the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.” According to its Web site – – the Florida Strawberry Festival, a celebration of Plant City’s harvest of strawberries, continues to unite the community with a tradition that dates back to the 1930s. The festival serves to highlight the agricultural and historical legacy of the strawberry.

The Florida Strawberry Festival epitomizes an American tradition, wherein cultural facets are coupled with the ambient community fair.

The festival, now in its 72nd year, typically draws more than 500,000 visitors from around the world. The numerous exhibits showcase the best of agriculture, industry, livestock, fine arts, ornamental horticulture and crafts. Social events, such as entertaining parades complete with floats and marching bands, are also featured.

The Florida Strawberry Festival is in its 72nd year and draws more than 500,000 visitors annually. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Connoisseurs can wet their appetite with an assortment of flavorful strawberry delicacies, including milkshakes, shortcakes, sundaes and ice cream. Fresh strawberries are on sale by the flat or quart so that they may be relished at home. Botanical aficionados may even purchase their very own strawberry plants.

Every year, the festival brings rock and country music performers to its concerts. This year’s entertainment lineup includes Randy Travis, Clint Black, LeAnn Rimes, the Oak Ridge Boys and Hootie & the Blowfish. According to the Web site, there are about 4,000 free seats for most concerts, included as a part of gate admission, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reserved seats may be purchased for $10 and $15 if one wishes to get a closer seat.

Gates open at 10 a.m. Monday through Sunday and close at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The festival is open an additional half hour Friday through Sunday. General admission is $9 for adults (ages 13 & up), $5 for children (ages 6-12) and children age 5 and under are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased at the ticket office, 2209 W. Oak Avenue, Plant City, or ordered directly from the festival Web site.