Festivals celebrate strawberries, seafood, swamp creatures and more

This weekend is ripe with festivals, particularly if you like strawberries, seafood and swamp creatures. Only in Florida.

FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

There should be a law stating you can't visit the festival, or even drive along Interstate 4 near Plant City, without getting a bowl of strawberry shortcake. St. Clement's berry booth attracts huge crowds, serving an average of 100,000 shortcakes a year. And don't worry: Despite the recent cold snap, organizers say there'll be no shortage of berries.

Music:

If cowboy hats are your favorite accessory, then giddyup to Plant City. The festival draws some of the biggest names in country year after year, without the sticker shock of most concert venues. Tickets to the festival's outdoor stadium are $10 to $30. And it gets even better. Each show has about 3,000 bleacher seats for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Among standouts in the next week (go to flstrawberryfestival.com for full lineup):

Roy Clark (3:30 p.m. today): Hee Haw host and banjo/guitar picker extraordinaire.

Billy Currington (7:30 tonight): Because People Are Crazy.

Julianne Hough (7:30 p.m. Friday): She sings, she dances with the stars.

Suite Caroline (1 p.m. Saturday): The bay area's fave country/pop tween sensation (free).

Switchfoot (3:30 p.m. Saturday): Alt pop rock with Christian leanings.

Michael W. Smith (7:30 p.m. Saturday): More contemporary Christian.

Darius Rucker (7:30 p.m. Sunday): The artist formerly known as Hootie (and the Blowfish).

Debbie Reynolds (3:30 p.m. Tuesday): America's sweetheart, forever known for Singin' in the Rain.

The following week includes Sara Evans, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Rides and attractions:

About 90 rides are planned, including a 100-foot-tall Giant Wheel. You can also watch Harry Hambone, Shakin Bakin and other potbelly pigs race around a track for treats. Or lumberjacks slice logs like butter. Or lambs jump over horse rails. New this year: Galaxy Girl, who does a trapeze routine from a frightening height.

Admission:

$10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 12. Ride wristbands run from $17 to $25, depending on the day. Deals and discounts: Seniors 60 and older get $2 off admission today. Kids get in free Saturday. Mountain Dew Family Days are Sunday and March 14; anyone who brings a can of Dew can ride all day for $20. Tuesday is the first Red Hat Day, in which Red Hatters receive $2 off admission. On Wednesday, active and retired military get free admission. Call (813) 752-9194. flstrawberryfestival.com

Hours:

The festival runs today through March 14 at 303 N Lemon St. in Plant City. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The midway opens at noon, except on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday when it opens at 10 a.m. Midway closing times vary, depending on the day and weather.

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Floral City Strawberry Festival

Plant City too big for you? This small-town festival in Citrus County has locally grown strawberries, old-fashioned homemade sweet contests (jams, pies, cakes, muffins, etc.), pony rides, Strawberry Princess pageants and a Model A Classic Car Club Show (10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday). It's 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Floral Park, 9530 S Parkside Ave. $2, 11 and younger free. (352) 726-2801. citruscountychamber.com

Taste of Dunedin

Stroll through the artsy, touristy shops (from flip-flop key chains to fine paintings) and nibble from area restaurants and you'll forget this charming gulfside town is smack in the middle of urban sprawl. There's a raffle in Pioneer Park at 5:30 p.m., which benefits a local food bank. It's noon to 6 p.m. Sunday along Main Street. $10, at chamber of commerce, 301 Main St. (727) 733-4121, ext. 502 or (727) 733-3197.

Weeki Wachee Swamp Fest

Where it's perfectly normal to walk around dressed like the Creature From the Black Lagoon, slurping down swamp cabbage soup. A loyal following returns every year to this little family fest for the laid-back atmosphere, entertainment, vendors and alligator tail kabobs. It's 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Linda Pederson Park at Jenkins Creek in Weeki Wachee. Don't miss the swamp monster costume judging at 10:45 a.m. Saturday. Admission is $2, children 11 and younger free with paying adult. wwswampfest.com

Safety Harbor Seafood Festival

Bibs on for seafood galore, plus inflatables and photos with a mermaid. Sweet. Live music includes Human Condition (6 p.m. Saturday) and Hip Abduction (4 p.m. Sunday). Dig in noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Safety Harbor Marina, 110 Veterans Memorial Lane. Free admission. (727) 724-1572.

Gulf Maritime Festival

Dive in to all kinds of gulf maritime traditions, especially Greek ones. Demonstrations include sponge diving and processing, making diving helmets, cast nets, sponging equipment, mullet nets, stone crab traps, mullet smoking, clam farming and boat building. It's 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, 20 Dodecanese Blvd. Free. (727) 942-5605.

Bay Area Renaissance Festival

The festival continues this week with a Buccaneer Beer Fest theme, including a longbow competition, barbecue competition, bike run, tattoo contest, 10 hot wing timed eating contest and biker weekend (discounts with presentation of motorcycle driver's license). The replica of a 16th century village also has the usual entertainment on multiple stages, street theater, live armored contact jousting, human chess matches and fire-eaters. This weekend's promotion is the "Buy Once-Go Twice" ticket, which allows guests to attend the fest one day and come back any other day for free. It's 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at MOSI grounds, 11315 N 46th St., Tampa. $17.95 adults; $9.95 kids 5-12, $14-95 seniors. (813) 983-0111. bayarearenaissancefest.com

Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest 2010

More than 100 Florida craft beers will be featured at this event that has sold out the past three years. There will be unlimited beer tasting with your FBG glass. It's 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Centro Ybor, Seventh Avenue at 16th Street. $25 in advance, $30 day of. floridabrewersguild.org

Palm Harbor Main Street Art and Craft Festival

Browse art, crafts and jewelry along Florida Avenue in historic downtown Palm Harbor. It's 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Free admission. (727) 784-4287.

Hernando County Reading Festival

Events include character appearances, book walk, a book sale, food and games, face painting, door prizes and special guests author Michael Sampson, storyteller Windell Campbell and Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure. Free goody bags will be given to the first 300 children. It's 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Nature Coast Technical High School, 4057 California St., Brooksville. Free. (352) 797-7018.

Taste of Temple Terrace and Business Expo

Learn what services Temple Terrace area businesses have to offer and sample food and drink from numerous area restaurants. It's 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at University of South Florida Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $5. (813) 989-7004. templeterracechamber.com

Compiled by Times staff writer Kelly Smith. Times staff writer Susan Thurston contributed.

Festivals celebrate strawberries, seafood, swamp creatures and more 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 7:49am]

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