Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

One last strawberry completes a make your own strawberry shortcake during opening day of  Florida Strawberry Festival in 2012. JASON BEHNKEN
One last strawberry completes a make your own strawberry shortcake during opening day of Florida Strawberry Festival in 2012. JASON BEHNKEN
Published July 19 2018
Updated July 19 2018

The strawberry-laden and deep-fried wonders of Plant Cityís Florida Strawberry Festival will be featured on two episodes of the TV series Carnival Eats, the first on July 29.

The Cooking Channel series features host Noah Cappe as he marvels at the "gastronomic freak shows" found at the carnivals, state fairs and festivals around the U.S. and Canada. Crews from the show went to tiny Plant City in March to document its huge strawberry festival, which will be the focus of two episodes of its sixth season at 9 p.m. on July 29 and Sept. 16. Strawberries even make a surprise appearance in some savory treats like the Sweet Brisket Taco and the Spicy Strawberry Stack.

With no booze, tobacco or other vices, the Florida Strawberry Festival may be a quaint piece of Americana. But itís also the second-most attended fair in the state, outpacing the Florida State Fair and bigger metropolitan festivals.

Mama Jane Harris of Best Around Concessions and her famous funnel cakes have already been on the show twice before and the concessionaire this year brought her new Loaded Fried Potato Funnel Cake to the strawberry festival, which features a batter mixed with bacon bits, chives and potatoes that was fried and topped with hot cheddar and more bacon and chives with sour cream.

The festival is also known for strawberry shortcakes, over-the-top strawberry milkshakes, strawberry dessert pizza, deep-fried strawberry shortcake and the Plant City Lionís Clubís invention, strawberry fritters.

When the TV crew arrived last spring, Jennifer Gillespie, a story producer with Carnival Eats, at the time said the show looks for festivals with a variety of interesting foods from the sweet to the savory and, especially, the unique. They also try to find places with a strong community ties. The Strawberry Festival, she said, has been on their radar for some time, but scheduling hadnít worked out before.

"When we spoke with food vendors about their menus, they all said itís one of their favorite fairs or their favorite fair in Florida," Gillespie said. "Everybody Iíve spoken to loves this festival and has nothing but nice things to say about it."

For more information on Carnival Eats, visit cookingchanneltv.com.

Times staff writer Daniel Figueroa IV contributed to this report.

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