Florida Strawberry Festival By: Paul Davis,

Florida Strawberry Festival President My very first, clear memory of the Florida Strawberry Fes-

tival takes me back to the age of 13. My mom finally felt comfortable enough dropping my brother, Bill, and I off on a Saturday and even gave us $10 each to help us enjoy our day. I vividly remember spending one of those dollars on a surfer’s cross to give my mom; I would bet that she still has it. When I think back on my favorite memories of the Festi-

val over the years, they all seem to have a common thread – family. My wife and I have had dates here; our kids have grown up on these grounds, and our grandchildren are now enjoying the tradition. Memories are priceless gifts, and our fairs and festivals have made millions of them for many families throughout the years. It was a true honor for us in March to invite over 500,000

families and friends to Plant City, Fla. to celebrate “Building New Memories!” With the introduction of our new concert venue, a new exhibit hall, improved security features and, of course, new entertainers and interesting foods, we couldn’t wait to open our gates and see the reactions of our special guests. Our most exciting and daunting task throughout the past

year has been the construction of our new concert seating and exhibit hall. Having held headline entertainment shows in concrete grandstands that were previously used for foot- ball games, it was certainly time for an upgrade. We began construction on the project just two weeks after the close of the 2017 Festival and worked up until the day before we opened in 2018 to finish every detail. We are thrilled with our finished product that has created more comfortable seats, better views of the stage and an overall more inti- mate concert experience. We received rave reviews from our headline entertainers over the new addition, and we feel confident that this will position the Festival well for the future. Another change made to this year’s event was the addi-

tion of magnetometers at each of our entry gates. In re- sponse to some unnecessary publicity we received days before our opening, we listened to the concerns of our pa- trons and did what we thought would make our guests most comfortable. We quickly implemented new protocols for the proper use of these security devices, and our pa- trons seemed appreciative of our extra efforts to secure their safety. The turnaround on the idea was quick, but we

believe it was the right move and plan to con- tinue to use them in the future. In every

way, we were truly blessed all of our 11 days. We wel- comed 526,025 guests from near and far. We hosted 24 headline entertainers, including Reba McEn- tire who sold out, along with 25 on-grounds entertainers, 85+ rides, 7 youth livestock shows and around 400 concessionaires and arts and crafts vendors. Our midway reported the sec- ond highest sales ever recorded here, and our vendors

brought us new concoctions such as the Loaded Fried Potato Funnel Cake, all of which our patrons and media

partners “ate up.” We continue to learn more with each Festival about how

we can improve security, the customer experience, public relations, our branding and more. We hope to extend to you all the knowledge we continue to gain just as you have done for us over the years. We are thankful for the cooper- ation of all our members; you too have had a hand in the workings of our Festival, and we appreciate your contribu- tions.

We look forward to seeing you all soon at the Summer Workshop!


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