By GEORGE H. NEWMAN | The Tampa Tribune
PLANT CITY – A small army of volunteers and vendors put the finishing touches today on the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds.
Thursday at 10 a.m., the show begins.
Festival General Manager Paul Davis said everyone has been working hard to get the festival grounds ready for another successful 11-day run.
“The Florida Strawberry Festival is family entertainment where patrons get tremendous value for their entertainment dollar,” Davis said. “We are looking for this year to be a great year at the festival.”
The festival includes carnival rides, top entertainment and of course, mountains of strawberry shortcake.
Visitors will notice improvements that include more lighting, expanded and relocated livestock areas, and new games and vendors.
Charles Panacek, the owner of Belle City Amusements Inc., a Deltona company that is supplying the midway, said 500 workers have set up and will operate more than 80 rides. “That is the most ever constructed at the strawberry festival,” he said.
There will also be more than 100 games and food concessions on the midway.
Rides range from a Ferris wheel that rises almost 90 feet to the traditional carousel and slides for the less daring.
Headline entertainers such as Taylor Swift, George Jones and Jessica Simpson provide entertainment each day at the GTE Federal Credit Union Soundstage. Swift’s Sunday show is a sellout, but the festival offers a limited number of free bleacher seats at each concert on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We also have a terrific lineup of free entertainment inside the festival,” Davis said, such as lumberjack and bicycle stunt shows. “It is a family oriented event that is well worth the price of admission.”
Thursday is Senior Citizen Day, and visitors 60 and older get $2 off the $10 gate admission. The festival runs through March 8.