Florida State Fair vs. Florida Strawberry Festival: Who's got the better music?
On paper, at least, it looks like a mismatch: The Florida Strawberry Festival has long been one of the top country music events in the South, and the Florida State Fair is known for Vegas-style revues, washed-up old-timers and variety tributes -- if it's known for music at all.
But is it really that cut-and-dry? Let's look at the evidence.
For decades, the Strawberry Festival has brought world-class country talent to Hillsborough County, from Johnny Cash to Garth Brooks, from George Strait to Brad Paisley, from Loretta Lynn to Taylor Swift to, um, Jessica Simpson, above.
Tickets to this year's shows are $10-$30. Among this year’s standouts: Billy Currington, Darius Rucker, Sara Evans, Julianne Hough, Roy Clark and Lynyrd Skynyrd. (Click here for the full 2010 Florida Strawberry Festival lineup.) And it gets even better. Each show has about 3,000 bleacher seats for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Meanwhile, in Tampa, the Fair has live music every day, most of it free. On Feb. 10, there are two “Country Gold” shows ($10 apiece) featuring old-timey singers like Leroy Van Dyke, Jim Ed Brown, Gene Watson, Helen Cornelius and more. And on Feb. 13-14, the Fair will host the national finals of the Elvis Extravaganza, a nationwide Elvis impersonator competition.
(Pauses. Shuffles notes awkwardly. Furrows brow.)
On second thought, maybe it really is that cut-and-dry. Musically, the Strawberry Festival blows the State Fair out of the water.
Still, the State Fair is a hoot and a half, and it kicked off yesterday in Tampa. Click here to read more of Jay Cridlin and Susan Thurston's argument about which is more fun, the Strawberry Festival or State Fair.
-- Photo (2009): Michael C. Weimar, special to tbt*