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Florida Strawberry Festival has a harvest of young Nashville talent

Two things the Florida Strawberry Festival does better than anyone else: Whipping up shortcake, and scouting Nashville talent. Plant City's annual farmapalooza has featured just about every major name in country music history over the years, often by booking them right around the time they're breaking big.

Following in the footsteps of Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum — two acts that played the Strawberry Festival before moving on to Grammy gold — are The Band Perry, a family trio that rode their smash single If I Die Young to a Best New Artist Grammy nomination and Song and Single of the Year wins at the 2011 CMAs. Other young sexies on the bill include Jason Aldean's tourmate and buddy Luke Bryan (I Don't Want This Night To End) and the more rock-influenced Jake Owen (Barefoot Blue Jean Night).

This year, the two biggest veteran names on the bill are Hank Williams Jr. and Reba (her people are insisting we drop the "McEntire"), and tickets to their concerts are a wallet-popping $50, the most in Strawberry Festival history. (We'll cut Hank some slack on that, though — he did lose his job at Monday Night Football, and a man's gotta eat.) Non-country fans will have a handful of choices this year, led by yacht rockers Air Supply and troubled Disney teen queen Demi Lovato, whose vampy, coif-swirling performance at December's 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball left us wondering just what they're putting in the water these days at Camp Rock.

All shows take place at the festival grounds. As per tradition, the festival will make about 3,000 bleacher seats available for free on a first-come, first-served basis — and for the biggest, hottest names, that queue starts up early. Here's the 2012 Strawberry Festival lineup.

March 2: Demi Lovato (7:30 p.m., $30-$35), Gatlin Brothers/Crystal Gayle (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

March 3: Air Supply (7:30 p.m., $15-$20), Lauren Alaina (3:30 p.m., $10-$15), Suite Caroline (1 p.m., free)

March 4: Hank Williams Jr. (7:30 p.m., $50), Jake Owen (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

March 5: Josh Turner (7:30 p.m., $25-$30), Felix Cavaliere's Rascals (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

March 6: Vince Gill (7:30 p.m., $35), Brenda Lee (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

March 7: The Band Perry (7:30 p.m., $25-$30), Lee Greenwood/Louise Mandrell (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

March 8: Luke Bryan (7:30 p.m., $30-$45), Charlie Daniels Band (3:30 p.m., $20-$25), Ronnie McDowell (10:30 a.m., free)

March 9: TobyMac (7:30 p.m., $20-$25), The Platters/Cornell Gunter's Coasters/Bobby Hendrick's Drifters (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

March 10: Rodney Atkins (7:30 p.m., $20-$25), Allstar Weekend (3:30 p.m., $10-$15)

March 11: Reba (7:30 p.m., $50), Easton Corbin (3:30 p.m., $15-$20)

The eternal battle: Hank Williams Jr. vs. Air Supply

Two acts on opposite sides of the tough-tender spectrum — jingoistic country madman Hank Williams Jr. and sweater-wearing soft-hit specialists Air Supply — play the Florida Strawberry Festival this year. Argumentative tbt* writers Sean Daly and Steve Spears debate who deserves your ticket money this weekend.

Sean: Sure, Hank Jr. might be a ragin', Obama-slammin' socio­-

path, but concerts are better with a lil' unhinged danger. The guy once played a show with one of his amps on fire! The only risk at an Air Supply gig is whether you'll get wine cooler spilled on your pressed Dockers.

Steve: Here's why I prefer Air Supply: You don't need apostrophes to talk about their music, Sean. The Aussie songsmiths easily slay the hearts of women with their soft FM prose because they don't abbreviate their feelings, pal. And because Russell Hitchcock can still hold that final note in All Out of Love for three solid days. No, I'm not crying, I'm just getting a little emotional.

The festival is not just strawberries and music. There's also pig racing, the World Champion Lumberjills (women with chainsaws), Sean Lion Splash Show, midway rides and games. It runs through March 11 at the festival grounds, 303 N Lemon St., Plant City. Advance admission is $8, $4 ages 6 to 12; at the gate it's $10, $5 kids. Children 5 and younger free. Saturday is Kid's Day, with free admission for kids through high school age. Midway opens at noon daily except Saturday, Sunday and Monday, when it opens at 10 a.m. Details at flstrawberryfestival.com.

The eternal battle: Hank Williams Jr. vs. Air Supply

Two acts on opposite sides of the tough-tender spectrum — jingoistic country madman Hank Williams Jr. and sweater-wearing soft-hit specialists Air Supply — play the Florida Strawberry Festival this year. Argumentative tbt* writers Sean Daly and Steve Spears debate who deserves your ticket money this weekend.

Sean: Sure, Hank Jr. might be a ragin', Obama-slammin' sociopath, but concerts are better with a lil' unhinged danger. The guy once played a show with one of his amps on fire! The only risk at an Air Supply gig is whether you'll get wine cooler spilled on your pressed Dockers.

Steve: Here's why I prefer Air Supply: You don't need apostrophes to talk about their music, Sean. The Aussie songsmiths easily slay the hearts of women with their soft FM prose because they don't abbreviate their feelings, pal. And because Russell Hitchcock can still hold that final note in All Out of Love for three solid days. No, I'm not crying, I'm just getting a little emotional.

Florida Strawberry Festival has a harvest of young Nashville talent 02/29/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 2, 2012 6:22pm]

    

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