The Florida Strawberry Festival opens on Thursday for an 11-day run in Plant City without its signature lineup of headlining music acts. But the midway will be stocked with deep-fried and unusual fair food, including a Jolly Rancher Slush, deep-fried eclairs and a strawberry-infused pickle.
With no booze, tobacco or other vices, the Florida Strawberry Festival has been both a quaint piece of Americana and the second-most attended fair in the state. It drew a record 562,327 visitors in 2019, outpacing the Florida State Fair and bigger metropolitan festivals. The big attraction has typically been its stellar music lineup, which last year included sold-out shows by Rascal Flatts and Reba McEntire.
In an effort to keep crowds from gathering too closely this year, organizers canceled the big concerts. But the deep fryers will be running at full speed, and hundreds of thousands of strawberry shortcakes will be doled out.
In addition to the returning favorites, here are some of the new food items debuting this year that may test your stomach lining’s limits:
Apple Pie Sweet Potato: A sweet potato that is swirled with butter gets a homemade apple pie filing, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. It can be found at Taylor’s Doughboy on the north side of the TECO Expo Hall.
Bahama Breeze Italian Ice: A mixture of strawberry, pineapple, and mango Italian ice layered with fresh-cut pineapples and strawberries. Located at Domi Italian Ice east of the North Exhibit Tent.
Chocolate Pineberry Drizzle: The Pink-A-Boo pineberry treats from Wish Farm serves fat pink strawberries on a stick that are drizzled with white or milk chocolate. It is available at the Chocolate Strawberry Express located in the Parke Exhibit Building. Limited availability.
Deep Fried Eclair: The name says it all. A mini eclair is deep fried until golden brown, dusted with powdered sugar and laced with Ghirardelli milk chocolate. Located at Carousel Concessions near the Neighborhood Village.
Deep Fried Triple Chocolate Oreo: While deep-fried Oreos have long been a staple, this new twist dips the classic cookie in chocolate cake batter and it is then deep fried and topped with sweet powdered sugar, rich chocolate sauce and whipped cream piled high. Located at Taylor’s Doughboy on the south side of the Parke Exhibit Building.
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Jolly Rancher Slush: The fruity candy will come in slush form in a limited-edition Florida Strawberry Festival commemorative cup with loads of the sweet treats on top. Located at Apple Fries Concession on West Independent near the Arthur Boring Building.
Mexican Street Burger: A quarter-pound hamburger is topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, cilantro, onion, Mexican street corn, fried avocados and drizzled with a spicy Sriracha mayonnaise. Located at Carousel Concessions near the Neighborhood Village.
Piggy Stack: This meal in a bowl is a piece of sweet cornbread, piled high with pulled pork, barbecued beans, and coleslaw. Located at Piggy Palace southwest of the Arthur Boring Building.
Strawberry Pickle: Here’s the dill: A traditional dill pickle is infused with strawberry flavoring. If you’re in the market to try something new, there is limited availability at the Chocolate Strawberry Express in the Parke Exhibit Building.
Strawberry Brownie Shortcake: A traditional shortcake comes with a brownie twist. You get a moist brownie and Wish Farms strawberries piled high with a cream topping. The strawberry brownie shortcake is available at the Berry Amaz’n shortcake booth located south of the TECO Expo Hall.
Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Funnel Cake: A traditional funnel cake mix made with lemon juice and ricotta cheese then fried till golden brown. Layered with a zesty lemon glaze, topped with fresh sliced strawberries, and dusted with a sweet powdered sugar. Located at Best Around Concessions outside of Candyland Warehouse.
Strawberry Pina Colada Smoothie: The right mix of strawberries, pineapples and coconut aims to make you pucker. Located at the Cinnamon Bun Saloon near the south side of the Parke Exhibit Building.
Strawberry Red Bottom Passion Italian Ice: A strawberry and mango Italian ice is layered with strawberries and topped with strawberry drizzle. Located at Domi Italian Ice east of the North Exhibit Tent.
If you go
Florida Strawberry Festival: For its 86th year, the Plant City festival celebrates the strawberry harvest with a midway, animal shows and local entertainment on the festival grounds, though without big-name music acts this year.
When: Opens Thursday through March 14 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily at 303 BerryFest Place, Plant City. 813-752-9194. flstrawberryfestival.com.
COVID-19 precautions: Face masks are required within buildings and enclosed tents and encouraged throughout the festival grounds. Crowd size will be monitored and capacity may be limited when necessary.
Admission: $10, $5 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free.