Come on, Florida: No more orange juice at welcome centers? Really? | Editorial
The state’s welcome centers got rid of their trademark orange juice in July. But was that really the right decision?
Florida no longer provides free juice at welcome centers.
Florida no longer provides free juice at welcome centers. [ Tampa Tribune ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jan. 10, 2020

Some things are worth the expense, especially if we’re talking about free orange juice and the amount is $250,000. Providing orange juice free to tourists and residents coming into the state’s welcome centers has set a tone for Florida since 1949. Budget cuts caused it to go the way of the dinosaur in July, and visitors are still asking, ‘‘Where’s the juice?'' One thing is clear: There’s more than enough public demand to bring the juice back.

The orange juice started as a tradition at a smattering of welcome centers near the state’s border. The four-ounce paper cups of orange juice were a way to sell Florida to tourists and entice residents. But in 2015, then-Gov. Rick Scott vetoed money to pay for the juice. The Florida Department of Citrus shortly after agreed to take on the $250,000 annual cost. But as budget cuts hit the citrus department, it decided free orange juice was a place to cut.

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Sometimes, orange juice is more than just orange juice. Public feedback on the lack of juice shows just how much this orange juice means to visitors and residents. Colorado’s Michele Kelly saw the juice as a symbolic landmark that she had finally arrived in the state. “How sad and short-sighted to eliminate this symbol of Florida sunshine, beaches and beauty,” she wrote to Visit Florida. “Not a wise way to make budget cuts.”

Some symbols deserve to live on. And for $250,000 in a state with a $91 billion budget, this is a small price to pay for a large reward.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.