. Festival notes
With Plant City's favorite fruit at the center of the festival, it's a given that digesting strawberry concoctions is a cornerstone.
However, competitive eating also holds a special place. Beginning today, chowhounds can step up to the plate for four events that test whether people's stomachs are as big as their eyes.
Rigatoni's sponsors today's Fried Corn on the Cob Team Eating Contest at 1 p.m. at the Stingray Chevrolet tent. The Super Dog Mega Corn Dog Contest (Wednesday, 1 p.m.), the Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest (Thursday, 2 p.m.) and the Strawberry Mashed Potato Pie Eating Contest (March 8, noon) also will reward those who match gusto and gastro. No word on whether strawberry-flavored Pepto-Bismol will be offered.
Dress to impress
Everyone loves themed parties where you craft a costume and masquerade in a campy getup. But at the Strawberry Festival, people dress up and then they dress up their cows. Or their lambs, depending on the particular night.
Yes, the festival features both the Dairy Costume Ball at the Patterson Co. Livestock Arena on Sunday and the Lamb Costume Contest at the Swindle Family Pavilion on Tuesday. You really haven't seen anything until you've seen a cow dressed up like the "Mystery Machine" from Scooby-Doo.
Who's the best?
Nobody can eat just one strawberry shortcake, so why not set out to prove who offers the best? Three organizations offer shortcake: St. Clement Church, the East Hillsborough Historical Society and Turkey Creek Assembly of God. If you quiz the natives, all three will receive support.
Did you know?
• Pam Tillis, country star and daughter of music icon Mel Tillis, was born in Plant City.
• Alcoholic beverages have never been served at the festival.
• Seniors get $2 off admission on Thursday.
If you go
The Florida Strawberry Festival's official address is 303 N Lemon St., and most reach it by taking Interstate 4 to Exit 19 (Thonotosassa Road), but the old pros will advise you to take Exit 18 (Branch Forbes Road) and come in from the east on U.S. 92. Festival admission is $8, $4 ages 6-12 at Sweetbay throughout the fest, $10, $5 ages 6-12 at the gate. Kids 5 and younger free. Visit flstrawberryfestival.com.
Today: Casting Crowns 7:30 p.m. ($20-$25); Gene Watson 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
Saturday: Justin Moore 7:30 p.m. ($15-$20); Gloriana 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
Sunday: Alan Jackson 7:30 p.m. ($45); Randy Houser 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
Monday: Dwight Yoakam 7:30 p.m. ($20-$25); Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
Tuesday: Martina McBride 7:30 p.m. ($30); Bobby Vinton 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
Wednesday: Trace Adkins 7:30 p.m. ($30); Neal McCoy 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
Thursday: Brantley Gilbert 7:30 p.m. ($35); Mel Tillis 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
March 8: Scotty McCreery 7:30 p.m. ($25-$30); T.G. Sheppard and Janie Fricke 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)
March 9: Bret Michaels 7:30 p.m. ($25-$30); Gaither Vocal Band 3:30 p.m. ($20-$25)
March 10: Blake Shelton 7:30 p.m. (sold out); Hunter Hayes 3:30 p.m. ($15-$20)