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It’s fair and festival season in Hillsborough County

Bill DeYoung



The Florida State Fair starts Thursday in eastern Tampa. Photo provided.

Hillsborough County’s biggest and best-attended public events happen in February. The Florida State Fair, which has been the state’s “official” fair since 1975 (after a quarter-century of existence) opens this Thursday (Feb. 8) and will run through Feb. 19 at the fairgrounds, at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Interstate 4, in eastern Hillsborough.

The Florida State Fair is, of course, all about the midway rides and games, the nutritionally-questionable food, the lights, the noise, etcetera. AS with most state fairs, there’s also a large agricultural component, with youth livestock competitions: Goats, sheep, poultry, swine, cows, llamas and more. There’s even an official dog show.

Find all information about the Florida State Fair on the official website.

Although there is continuous entertainment at the fair, the focus is not on nationally-known headliners. For that, all eyes (and ears) turn to the Florida Strawberry Festival, Feb. 29-March 10 in Plant City.

Plant City is on I-4, northwest of Tampa (about halfway to Lakeland). Although strawberries are indeed plants, the city was named for early developer Henry B. Plant.

As with the fair, the Strawberry Festival includes exhibits: Agriculture, commerce, industry, livestock, fine arts, horticulture and crafts. There’s a midway, too.

And a lot of strawberries and strawberry products: More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in this part of Hillsborough County. Plant City has been celebrating this might berry since 1938.

There’s free entertainment, but there’s also an amphitheater where headliners perform. These concerts carry a separate ticket fee, not included in Strawberry Festival gate admission.

Kirk Franklin

Parker McCollum

Traditionally, name performers were exclusively country music artists. That has changed in recent years.

This year’s headliners are the Oak Ridge Boys (Feb. 29, afternoon); Oliver Anthony (Feb. 29, evening); Mike Love’s Beach Boys (March 1, afternoon); Jordan Davis (March 1, evening); Black-Eyed Peas (March 2, evening); Parker McCollum (March 3, evening); Bellamy Brothers (March 4, afternoon); ZZ Top (March 4, evening); Mark Lowry (March 5, afternoon); Zach Williams (March 5, evening); Craig Morgan (March 6, afternoon); Riley Green (March 6, evening); Gene Watson (March 7, afternoon); Kirk Franklin (March 7, evening); Commodores (March 8, afternoon); Foreigner (March 8, evening); Jo Dee Messina (March 9, afternoon); Flo Rida (March 9, evening); Cody Johnson (March 10, evening).

Florida Strawberry Festival website.









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