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The 55th Annual Florida Strawberry Festival, March 1-11, in Plant City. Gates open at 10 a.m. and exhibits close at 10:30 p.m., except March 2 and 9 when the fair holds Moonlight Delight from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Admission: $4, children under age 10 free when accompanied by an adult. Call Plant City 620-5145 or 752-9194.The 15th annual International Folk Fair, March 16-18, in Florida Suncoast Dome. Hours: March 16, 1-9 p.m.; March 17, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and March 18, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tickets $4 for adults, $1.50 children. Call St. Petersburg, 327-7999.

The 15th anniversary Medieval Fair, March 1-4, on grounds of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets $8.95 adults, $3 ages 6-12. Under 6 free. Call Sarasota, 355-5101.

From Plant City to Sarasota to St. Petersburg

Floridians and visitors will be able to go around the world in three days, return to medieval times or go into a strawberry-eating frenzy without ever leaving the Sunshine State.

All these things are possible because it is festival time in Florida _ and all these fun events are going to happen within an hour's radius in the Tampa Bay area.

Here are three of the biggest festivals that will take place in the Tampa Bay area in March:

The Ringling Museum of Art's annual Medieval Fair, March 1-4, features everything from jousting competitions to human chess challenges at its annual event, which is staged on the 38-acre grounds surrounding the state museum.

Wearing full armor, knights will engage in jousting contests on horseback daily at 11 a.m. and 1, 3 and 5 p.m. The chess players will make their moves at noon and 4 p.m. daily. New to the fair this year will be a mammoth, man-made maze called the Dragon's Lair. The brightly colored cloth will provide fair goers with an intricate 3,600-foot network of passages to wend their way through.

More than 130 craftsmen, 100 entertainers and 25 food purveyors will help recreate a 14th-century English mayfair celebration. Throughout the fair, the costumed artisans will give daily demonstrations of their time-honored techniques. More than 100 shows are planned each day in seven theatrical arenas and on the grounds. The fair's fare offers something for everyone. Royal repasts will range from fresh foods on carts to bakeries, hot grills and taverns. Fair goers will be able to feast on giant turkey drumsticks, fresh fruit or deep fried vegetables.

"World travelers" will be able to "visit" foreign lands, learn their customs, sample their fare and buy their wares at the 15th annual International Folk Fair March 16-18 in St. Petersburg's new Florida Suncoast Dome. The event is sponsored by the St. Petersburg International Folk Fair Society Inc. (SPIFFS), the City of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Times and WTSP-TV Ch. 10.

The theme of this year's festival is "A World of Culture," and the new, expansive dome will allow the participants to go to new heights. The French exhibit will showcase an 18-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower; the Greek display will feature an ancient Greek Temple with 18 10-foot columns. Mexico's display will be a 15-foot-high mural of an Azetc temple and the Japanese have chosen a teahouse for their exhibit. There will be 42 different villages "erected" within the dome.

The floor of the dome will be laid out like a world map. Pretend passport photographs and passports will be taken at the "port of entry." Europe will be straight ahead, North and South America to the right and Asia and the Pacific will be at the left. Participants will be able to have their passports stamped in each village.

Within each village there will be interesting and exotic foods for sale. Performances and opportunities for audience participation will be scheduled at regular intervals in each village.

For 55 years, Plant City _ the strawberry mecca of the United States _ has been honoring the There will be plenty of competitions going on too _ from top hog to best dog. There will also be contests for clogging, milking and for stemming as well as eating strawberries.