by Randal Hill
In 1999, singer-songwriter Brad Paisley, a relatively
unknown performer, was scheduled to headline a May
2000 fairgrounds show in tiny Madras, Oregon. By the time his scheduled appearance date rolled around, he
had become a country music superstar. Many in Madras (including myself) wondered if he would even bother
to show up.
Not only did he appear, Paisley proved to be a most gracious professional and at one point declared, “This is what country music is really all about — playing in a
small town on a Saturday night.”
Now, the winner of nearly three dozen major awards, including three Grammys, and a proud member of the esteemed Grand Ole Opry, will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. on March 11 at this year’s 83rd Florida Strawberry Festival. The 11-day jubilee begins March 1.
“Building New Memories” is this year’s festival theme so prepare to make a U-turn in time.
The lineup features marquee-toppers Reba McEntire, the reigning queen of country music, along with the Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood, Trace Adkins, Charlie Pride and Sawyer Brown.
Rock legends Jerry Lee Lewis (the only surviving Sun Records star), the Drifters, the Platters, and Cornell Gunter’s Coasters will lead a stroll down Memory Lane, right along with British balladeer
Engelbert Humperdinck, R & B hit maker Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and the mighty elements of Earth, Wind and Fire.
Fans of 1990s music will enjoy the era’s mainstays Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc and Salt-N-Pepa.
“We’re proud of the lineup we have secured,” says festival president Paul Davis. “We sifted through hundreds of entertainers, working to find those we thought were the best fit for our guests.”
For a complete list of entertainment, see the Florida Strawberry Festival website at www.flstrawberryfestival.com.
The berry fest began in 1930 when the newly organized Plant City Lions came up with the idea of establishing an event to celebrate the area’s bountiful strawberry harvest—and to momentarily sweep away the Depression blues that hung over America at the time. Since then it’s been one big, family-friendly, slice of Americana that attracts more than half a million visitors from Florida and around the world each
Bring a hearty appetite as the seductive aroma of the deep-fried, the cheese-smothered, the smoked and the grilled will be wafting through the air. And, of course, the main course — all the strawberry delectables that helped put Plant City on the map — will be in abundant supply.
There’s the usual strawberry bonanza of shortcakes, milkshakes, cheesecakes, crème puffs, cobblers, pies, parfaits, crepes and jams. And for the culinary
adventuresome: strawberry-infused hamburgers, peanut brittle and pizza.
Songs and strawberries aren’t the only options available here. The festival also continues its tradition of good old-fashioned fun with livestock shows,
commercial exhibits, agricultural displays, arts and crafts, the 80-ride Belle City Midway, the Neighborhood
Village, Indian World and a pioneer village.
Where else can you see a magic show, cow-milking, a canine stunt dog show, pig racing and half dozen eating contests that usually involve—you guessed it—a certain little heart-shaped fruit?