Plant City Strawberry Festival

With the tragic but inevitable “Americanization of Dixie” continuing to occur at a break-neck pace, it’s both enjoyable and important for those that love the South to focus on the things that continue to set the region and its people apart from the rest of the country.  Take the Great Southern Festival, for example.  Be it agricultural, historical, or just plain social, the South seems to have a disproportionate amount of wonderfully unique festivals promoting (and preserving) our regional heritage.  Today, let’s focus on strawberries.

Since 1930 the small town of Plant City, Florida-“The Winter Strawberry Capitol of the World” –  has celebrated an annual festival dedicated to one of the Sunshine State’s most beloved exports: the strawberry.  Featuring parades, live music, carnival rides, cooking competitions and the ever-popular beauty pageant, the Plant City/Florida Strawberry Festival has grown to be ranked as one of the “Top 50 Fairs in America”.

Plant City Strawberry Festival, 1939

Now to be fair, the South is not alone in throwing festivals to celebrate the glory of the strawberry. However, while it’s true that one may attend a “Strawberry Festival” in say, California, Illinois, or – God forbid – New York, we all know the real deal can only be found South of the Mason-Dixon.

For more information on the granddaddy of them all (The only Strawberry Festival with its own temporary Post-Office):  THE FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL®, P.O. DRAWER 1869, PLANT CITY, FL 33564-1869. Phone: (813) 752-9194.  Physical address : 2202 W. REYNOLDS STREET. Or, check out their helpful web-site here.

Plant City Strawberry Festival, 1939

1939

1939

1976 Plant City Strawberry Queen

The Girls of Gasparilla

Jose Gaspar in Tampa Bay, 1964

Celebrated annually since 1904, the City of Tampa, Florida has put on the Gasparilla Pirate Festival at the end of every January, a wild spectacle that has become one of the largest and most unique events in the South.

Every year, some 400,000 people line the streets of Bayshore Blvd. to watch various wildly dressed “Krewes” parade through the city streets and throw beads, coins, and trinkets while firing off pistols and cannons.

The highlight of the parade is the initial “invasion” of the city, led by the 165 foot replica pirate ship, Jose Gaspar. The Gaspar is helmed by the men of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla (YMKG), the original founders of the parade, and the most prestigious of Tampa’s many krewes.  Once the mayor presents the Captain of the invading buccaneers with the Key to the City, the pirates disembark, and the parade commences.

Many happy years of my childhood were spent on the sides of the Bayshore watching the parade, and as all who have recently been can attest, Gasparilla has lost little of its original fun and excitement.

YMKG Pirate with Girls, 1967

Young Women on Jose Gaspar, 1968

Onboard the Jose Gaspar, 1976

Gasparilla, 1967

Ahoy! 1967

Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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