by RANDAL HILL
One sign of spring in Florida is the vast array of food and music festivals that start popping up in nearly every corner of the state. This time, we’ve hand plucked what we believe to be some of the top spring food festivals on Florida’s West Coast. So, mark your calendars and don’t miss some great gastronomical fun.
FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL
Festival grounds, Plant City, through March 10
Sure, this annual get-together
offers an abundance of star-studded
entertainment, parades, rides, exhibits and vendors, but keep in mind that its primary purpose is as a celebration of those little heart-shaped morsels of succulence for which the festival is named. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are grown at local farms each year, and since 1930, Plant City folks have celebrated with a gala that draws a half-million visitors from around the world. Florida Strawberry Festival vendors sell every imaginable strawberry delight, from the traditional (pies, cheesecakes, milkshakes) to the, ahem, unusual (strawberry-laced hamburgers and pizzas). See website for ticket prices.
FORT MYERS BEACH/LIONS CLUB
Fort Myers Beach, March 9 & 10
What began as a blessing of the
local shrimp boats decades ago has
blossomed into a major annual Fort
Myers Beach party. The fun kicks off
on Estero Boulevard, March 9th at 10 a.m., with a two-mile-long, dazzling parade replete with floats, bands and Clydesdale horses. The crowning of the 2019 Shrimp Queen follows afterward at Lynn Hall Park. Each year, the Lions Club cooks up over a half-ton of locally caught shrimp. Each dinner consists of a half pound of the steaming, delectable crustaceans, coleslaw and the Lions’ “secret recipe” cocktail sauce. Besides a shrimp-eating contest, over 100 vendors will set up on or near the pristine beach. Free admission.
CUBAN SANDWICH FESTIVAL
Centennial Park, Ybor City,
Tampa, March 31
Pork, Swiss cheese and “secret”
ingredients. Aromatic, freshly baked Cuban bread. Who serves up the Sunshine State’s very best Cuban sandwich? You be the judge at the 8th annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in Tampa’s historic Ybor City. Live music and dance performances on two stages. Over 100 vendors offering food and sundry exhibits. Free admission.
Special note: Watch folks attempt to create the world’s biggest Cuban sandwich, the day before at Centro Asturiano de Tampa. The planned length is (hold on) 170 feet!
CLEARWATER BEACH TASTE FEST
Pier 60, Clearwater Beach, May 3
USA Today ranks Clearwater as Florida’s Best Beach Town. Judge for yourself when you enjoy the food and fun at the 10th annual Clearwater Beach Taste Fest on May 3, from 6 to
9 p.m. This highly anticipated “ocean friendly” event features hearty samples of casual and fine-dining cuisine supplied by over 30 local restaurants. You’ll also find wine and craft beer,
and a wide variety of vendors. Get your groove on as crowd favorite C’Nergy takes the stage with a range of musical styles including Motown, country, pop and Latin tunes.
Registration is required to attend this event. Visit the website for more info.
ST. ARMANDS SEAFOOD &
St. Armands Circle Park, Sarasota,
The 3rd annual St. Armands Seafood
& Music Festival at St. Armands
Circle Park is back Memorial Day
weekend with scrumptious fresh
seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes
prepared onsite by local restaurant
folks using indigenous and sustainable
ocean resources from Florida’s coastal
waters. The annual bash also includes
tasty side dishes, desserts and drinks
to enjoy while relaxing amid the strains of live R & B, rock, classical and calypso. Arts and crafts booths, gourmet food and specialty items round out the attractions. You just might come away from this Sarasota event with a life companion as the Humane Society of Sarasota County will be there with their mobile adoption center featuring lots of adorable furry faces. Free general admission.