With a killer line-up featuring artists like Willie Nelson, Ludacris, The Isley Brothers and many more alongside tons of rides, and all the berry-blasted treats one could eat, the 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival had plenty to offer locals and tourists alike looking for a day full of food and fun this year. So much in fact, that it shattered previous attendance records for an 88th consecutive year.
Following the conclusion of this year's fest, organizers made the announcement to their Instagram page on Wednesday, March 15, that they'd smashed their previous record by approximately 60,000 people — totaling 606,116 berry-lovers in attendance.
" WOW! A new attendance record, and all because of your support. We are humbled. #BerryFest23." the post's short and sweet caption reads.
Offerings such as the largest mobile Ferris Wheel in the US, discounted admission, ride wristband deals, as well as free Polar Pops, free headliner ticket contests, gaining 5 extra performers after losing one, and free days for high schoolers and kids with special needs may have been a determining factor in the steep climb in numbers.
And it's looking like the Plant City fest may be on track to hold its crown as the most-attended fair in the Sunshine State.
According to reports from the Tampa Bay Times, The Florida Strawberry Festival beat out the Florida State Fair's attendance numbers of 428,400 in 2022 with it's previous 540,000+ attendee record. That same year, it also saw more visitors than more populous area surrounding the Miami-Dade County Fair with over 483,000 in attendance, and the 335,579 that made it to the South Florida Fair in West Palm Beach.
In a less-short, but just as sweet comment by Florida Strawberry Festival President, Paul Davis, thanks are thrown to everyone he could think of that helped make the 88-year-unbroken-record possible.
“From our festival family to yours, thank you,” said Davis. “We would not be where we are today without the community’s continued support. The patrons, the vendors, the concessionaires, the sponsors, the volunteers, the workers, the schools, the churches, the businesses, the staff, the board of directors, the maintenance team, the families, the committees, our friends at Belle City Amusements, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Plant City Police Department and everyone in between who has contributed to this moment, we share this accomplishment with you. We are so blessed!”
While a handful of commenters on the Instagram post celebrated the fest's success and sounded off about how much they enjoyed it, this much attention is bound to draw out areas where people think the festival could see further planning and improvements in following years.
Many commenters on the Instagram post cite a fiasco of parking problems, insane I-4 traffic, an uncomfortable amount of crowding, and soaring concession costs as major sticking points to their enjoyment of this year's festivities.
This year's fest ran for 11 days, from the 2nd of March through the 12th, at Plant City's festival grounds, hosting a variety of headlining entertainment, livestock shows, rides, food, arts and crafts vendors, other free entertainment, and more.
For more information about The Florida Strawberry Festival, check out their official website here.
Article by Rachael Volpe
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