Since 1930 (with a short 6 year break during WWII) The Florida Strawberry Festival has drawn crowds of people from all over the country to Plant City, FL each spring for a week of berry flavored fun. Even though I lived in Florida for close to 20 years off and on, I never attended the festival myself until this year. As far as Americana festivals go, this one is a pretty big deal, as I mentioned, people come from all over the county and all over the world to experience this little bit of days-gone-by. As you walk around the grounds, you could almost be in 1950 (if everyone weren’t dressed in Hollister t-shirts, that is). The place has that old-timey carnival feel to it. There are livestock pavilions, several strawberry related merchandise buildings, shows, etc. as well as several displays on subjects like FL agriculture, local high school FFA clubs, past festival queens (see the 1953 queen Ruby Jean Barker, below), strawberry dioramas, and a myriad of arts and crafts. In addition to the many free daytime shows, they also have special headliner shows each evening for an additional cost. We aren’t talking small-town-nobody shmoes here either; I mean people like The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, Hank Williams Jr., Vince Gill, Charlie Daniel’s Band, The Band Perry & Reba.
In addition to displays of finished craft projects, they also had an area where people were teaching and demonstrating traditional arts such as wood working, blacksmithing & spinning. The spinner-in-residence, Cinnamon Bair, graciously spared us about 20 minutes of her time and taught Loving Husband how to spin his own yarn! When we knew that our dog-son Basil would not have many more days with us, we groomed him and saved a gallon size bag of his beautiful velvety hair with the intention of one day having someone else spin it into yarn for us. Cinnamon actually had a piece with her that was made from the spinnings of several different breeds of dogs and other animals. It was very neat to see and feel. After a couple of minutes she had LH spinning with a little drop spindle (as seen above). She said he picked it up faster than anyone she’s ever seen and that his yarn was even better than what she made when she first tried it. He enjoyed himself so much that we ordered him some combing paddles when we got home and he is eagerly awaiting their arrival so that he can get started!
I don’t think I need to explain to you how GREAT the whole place smelled! With fairway favorites like funnel cakes, corn dogs & fresh cut curly fries being made at every turn, you have the added bonus of items like strawberry cheesecake and shortcake perfuming the air. If you love strawberries, this is the place for you! There were mountains of strawberry items for sale; everything from t-shirts and umbrellas to purses and jewelry. Out of all of the items I perused, the ONE thing that I absolutely HAD to show you was these Swarovski crystal strawberry pendants (above) by Jean Kay! They are small, but they immediately caught my attention. Even though Rockabilly trends have idealized cherry accessories, in my research I have found that in the 40’s and 50’s strawberries were every bit as popular. I’ve come across many examples of Bakelite strawberry accessories, hats adorned with faux strawberries, house wares painted with strawberries and clothing embellished with bunches of the little red berries as well.
I hope you enjoyed the photos of our day at the festival (above) and if you ever get a chance to visit for yourself, please do because it was well worth the $8 admission fee! The Florida Strawberry festival is just one piece of the past that remains well “preserved” in the Sunshine State. Visit my Vintage Strawberry Pinterest board for more juicy images!