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Annual berry bash gets rolling today

It comes in shortcake, biscuits, pie and ice cream. You can buy it by the quart, or take it home and plant it yourself.

We're talking strawberries here, and nobody knows the red berries like the people who run the Florida Strawberry Festival.

For the 59th time, the festival opens today in Plant City. It continues through March 13.

Country music will provide some down-home flavor during the 10-day run. Wynonna Judd is scheduled to perform Sunday, Tanya Tucker on Wednesday and Barbara Mandrell the next day.

Other scheduled performers include The Oak Ridge Boys, (today), Doug Stone, (Friday), John Anderson, (Saturday) Wayne Newton, (Monday and Tuesday) and Billy Ray Cyrus (March 13).

All shows are set for 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Youngsters will get their turn in the spotlight when they show off their prize livestock. There's even a bovine costume ball scheduled for Sunday. Both the owners and the cows will dress up as their favorite storybook or television character.

Another popular contest is the strawberry shortcake eating contest scheduled for March 10 in the entertainment tent. Contestants must be at least 18 years old.

There is no shortage of baby contests. Categories include biggest eyes, prettiest girl, look-alike twin, most hair and even a competition for the best decorated diaper.

And let's not forget the traditional hog calling, cow-chip throwing and rooster crowing contests, as well as the midway rides and arts and crafts.

IF YOU GO

To get to the Florida Strawberry Festival, take Interstate 4 to Exit 10, Branch Forbes Road, or Exit 11, Thonotosassa Road. Then drive south to U.S. 92. Roads to the festival will be marked. The gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 10:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults. Children, age 10 years and younger, are admitted free. There are 10,000 free seats for stadium shows on a first-come basis and some limited $8 and $4 reserved seats. For more information call 752-9194.

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