Remember being in fifth grade and hearing the final bell of the day ring? Running at top speed to the car line, despite teachers chasing after you telling you you’d trip over your untied shoelaces, just so you can be the first into your car because the fair was finally in town.
Since 1930, every spring the Florida Strawberry Festival has been a staple childhood memory in the hearts of those living in Hillsborough County.
Today, the celebration of the bountiful strawberry harvest is ranked as one of the Top 40 Fairs in North America. Plant City natives have been basking in the warm glow of the carnival lights for years, and now they share it with the world.
The Florida Strawberry Festival has been consistently pulling in 500,000 guests every year. This year, the festival take place from March 1-11.
A loyal Florida Strawberry Festival attendee Deja Johnson, a junior majoring in social work, has been racing to the opening night of the fair every year since she was six years old.
“I remember going to the festival with my grandpa and him letting me play the water gun games, even though I would lose every time,” Johnson said. “I remember going and eating so much fair food that I would slip into a food coma on the way home.”
With over 80 rides, games and attractions coming to the fair every year, Johnson was never short of ways to thoroughly use up all her excited energy. Still, for Johnson, the best part of the fair was seeing the community in her small town come together.
“Everyone gets very excited,” Johnson said. “And we suit up in everything red and everything strawberry.”
Along with the famous fair fried foods, and the impossible-to-win games, the Florida Strawberry Festival hosts glorious parade floats and upbeat marching bands.
Dazzled by the beauty floating past her Isamar Alvarez, a senior majoring in Spanish, remembers her favorite memories of the fair to be watching the parade floats.
“The parade was so much fun to go to and see all the cool floats,” Alvarez said. “We would get beads and candy from the people on the floats. It was a family day, we would go to the parade and then go to the festival because all the kids would get in for free that day.”
After a long day of satisfyingly greasy foods and floats galore, the Florida Strawberry Festival showcases concerts with an array of artists.
This year, some of those performers include Earth, Wind & Fire, Reba McEntire, Trace Adkins, Vanilla Ice and Salt-N-Pepa.
According to Alvarez, the ride home will consist of cleaning off sticky fingers from strawberry shortcake.
“We could not leave without eating a strawberry shortcake,” Alvarez said. “They are just so yummy. If you never had a strawberry shortcake you're missing out! The Strawberry Festival is the best place for you to try one. You won’t regret it.”