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Munch! How sweet it is

By AMY ABBOTT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 22, 2002


When it comes to throwing a party for a succulent little red fruit called the strawberry, Plant City does it up.

Livestock dressed in paisleys. Racing, Oreo-eating pigs. Spinning rides. Wayne Newton.

The only thing more rich is the cream dolloped atop mounds of strawberries found throughout the fairgrounds.

This year's festival opens Thursday. The theme is "Family, Friends, Food and Fun" and the focus is the strawberry-centric community that 5,000 acres of crops call home.

Old Florida resurfaces with a log cabin built in 1858, relocated 7 miles south to the fairgrounds. The working post office, opened only during the festival, houses original mailboxes, desks and other furniture. Artisans will demonstrate spinning, tatting (a form of handmade lace) and chair caning.

Of course there are oodles of rides, munchies and shows to see on a daily basis. Here's a guide to help you plot a course through strawberry rapture.

DAILY

Gates and exhibits open 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Thursday through March 10.

Midway open Thursday, noon to midnight; March 1, noon to 3 a.m. (Moonlight Magic); March 2-4, 10 a.m. to midnight; March 5-7, noon to midnight; March 8, noon to 3 a.m. (Moonlight Magic); and March 9-10, 10 a.m. to midnight.

Children 10 and under free with paying adult. $7 General admission.

Daily Entertainment:

Chinese Acrobats: 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Showcase Tent.

Southern Star Bluegrass Band: local bluegrass band, 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., TECO Strawberry Tent.

Dennis Lee: 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (No 1 p.m. show on March 3 and 4), Music Revue Tent.

Linda Lou & the Lucky 4: 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Music Revue Tent.

Robinson's Racing Pigs: noon, 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., Livestock Area.

The Fox Brothers: 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Showcase Tent.

John Pearson & The Traveling Bell Show: 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. show will be part of the parade on March 2 and March 4), travels throughout midway.

Runa Pacha: Andes and South American Indian World folk music. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., near the Fair Office.

Neighborhood Village Demonstration Kitchen: educational exhibits of hand needlework, machine sewing, homemade toys, genealogy, heritage arts, food preservation, cake decorating, and baking. 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the kitchen. Traveling demonstrations throughout the festival. Educational demonstrations will be presented in the Neighborhood Village Kitchen.

THURSDAY

Grand Opening

  • Senior Citizens Day, age 60-plus, $1 off admission.
  • 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Myron Floren, Stadium.
  • 11:30 a.m.-noon, Senior Citizens' Drawing, Stadium.
  • 3-11 p.m., Ride-A-Thon, unlimited use of most mechanical rides, $14.
  • 4:30 p.m., Mel Tillis, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7 p.m., Youth Swine Show, Livestock Tent.
  • 7:30 p.m., Mel Tillis, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 1

  • Pepsi Day, $1 off with Pepsi coupon.
  • Moonlight Magic Night, $17, unlimited use of most mechanical rides. 11 p.m.-3 a.m.
  • 1 p.m., Dairy Contestant Judging Contest, Livestock Tent.
  • 4:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., Charlie Daniels Band, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7 p.m., Youth Swine Sale, Livestock Tent.

MARCH 2

  • Kids' Day, children through high school age admitted free all day, ride rates reduced until 4 p.m.
  • 11 a.m., 29th annual Youth Parade.
  • Noon, parade awards presented, Stadium; Dairy Show, Showmanship Livestock Arenas.
  • 2 p.m., Dairy Show, Livestock Arena.
  • 4:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., Trace Adkins, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 3

Family Day

  • 12:30 p.m., Pee Wee Showmanship Judging (Dairy), Livestock Tent.
  • 12:45-1:45 p.m., registration for Baby Contest entrants (Hillsborough County babies only), outside Entertainment Tent.
  • 1 p.m., Dairy Costume Ball, Livestock Tent.
  • 2-4 p.m., Baby Contest; Decorated Diaper Contest; Baby Features Contest; Diaper Derby (Hillsborough County babies only), Entertainment Tent.
  • 2 p.m., Youth Ornamental Horticulture Plant Sale, Plant Show Tent.
  • 4:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Toby Keith, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 4

Grand Parade Day

  • 7 a.m., Farm Credit Strawberry Salute Breakfast Invitational.
  • 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Ride-A-Thon, unlimited use of most mechanical rides, $14.
  • 10:30 a.m., Invitational Parade Luncheon, National Guard Armory.
  • 12:30 p.m., Pre-parade begins, downtown Plant City.
  • 1 p.m., Grand Feature Parade Begins, Downtown Plant City.
  • 2 p.m., Grand Parade Passes through Review Stadium.
  • 4:30 p.m., The Oak Ridge Boys, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 6 p.m., Lamb Jumping Contest, Lamb Tent.
  • 7 p.m., Lamb Show, Lamb Tent.
  • 7:30 p.m., The Oak Ridge Boys, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 5

  • 3 p.m., Strawberry Stemming Contest, Entertainment Tent.
  • 3-11 p.m., Ride-A-Thon, unlimited use of most mechanical rides, $14.
  • 4:30 p.m, Lee Ann Womack, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7 p.m., Lamb Costume Contest, Lamb Tent.
  • 7:30 p.m., Lee Ann Womack, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 6

  • 8:30-10:30 a.m., Sneak preview of fair for kindergarten and special education students.
  • 3-11 p.m., Ride-A-Thon, unlimited use of most mechanical rides, $14.
  • 4:30 p.m., Wayne Newton, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 6 p.m., Youth Steer Show, Livestock Tent.
  • 7:30 p.m., Wayne Newton, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 7

Senior Citizens Day, ages 60+

  • 10:30-11:30 a.m., "Boots" Randolph Group, Stadium.
  • 11:30 a.m.-noon, Senior Citizens' Drawing, Stadium.
  • Noon-1 p.m., "Boots" Randolph Group, Stadium.
  • 3 p.m., Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest, Entertainment Tent.
  • 4:30 p.m., Glen Campbell, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7:30 p.m., Glen Campbell, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 8

Moonlight Magic Day, 11 p.m.-3 a.m., unlimited use of most mechanical rides, $17.

  • 3 p.m.-5 p.m., Livestock Contestant Judging Contest, Livestock Tent.
  • 4:30 p.m., Brad Paisley, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7:30 p.m., Brad Paisley, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 11 p.m.-3 a.m., Moonlight Magic, Midway.

MARCH 9

Youth in Agriculture Day

  • 10:15 a.m., Baby Parade, Stadium Area.
  • 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-H Dog Show, Livestock Area.
  • 4:30 p.m., Tracy Lawrence, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7 p.m., Youth Steer Sale, Livestock Tent.
  • 7:30 p.m., Tracy Lawrence, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

MARCH 10

Family Day

  • Noon, Youth Beef Breed Show, Livestock Tent.
  • 4:30 p.m., Vince Gill, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.
  • 7:30 p.m., Vince Gill, Chrysler Sound Stage, Stadium.

GOINGS ON

22 -- TODAY

Charlie Hunter. He has a mind-boggling talent for playing both guitar and bass on his custom made 8-string. Recently pairing with the likes of Mos Def and Theryl De'Clouet, his brand of jazz takes on a world beat rhythm. 8 p.m. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Call (727) 895-3045.

Arun Gandhi. Keeping with family tradition, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi comes to teach the benefits of peace and philosophy. 2 p.m. University of South Florida Special Events Center. Call 974-7795.

Rebecca Sexton Larson's "Paper Poems." Maybe you've seen this local artist's work in the Polaroid Collection, Tampa Museum of Art, Graham Nash's private collection or the Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Otherwise, check out her unique point-of-view. Artist reception, 7-9 p.m.; Exhibit runs through March 23. Clayton Galleries, 4105 S MacDill Ave. Call (813) 831-3753.

Elgar's Majestic First Symphony. Jahja Ling conducts Amy Schwartz on violin in a piece hailed as one of the greatest of its time. 8 p.m., $20, $29, $35, $38. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall. Call 229-7892 Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Real Cajun spice has a French flavor and so does this band. Keeping with southwest Louisiana Cajun tradition, all songs are performed in Cajun-French. 8 p.m. Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road. Call 971-0666.

Tommy and Shelby Chong. With Cheech Marin, Tommy was half of a cultural icon. With Shelby, there's nothing half-baked about his act. 8 p.m., 10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., $25, $30. Side Splitters, 12938 N Dale Mabry Hwy. Call (813) 960-1197.

Tampa Spring Expo. More than 350 booths will display and sell goodies for everyone from arborists and sport turf experts. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 N U.S. 301. Call 655-1914.

Less Than Jake. If you think Ska is annoyingly peppy, you may change your mind with these boys who throw in a healthy dose of punk. 7 p.m., $25. Jannus Landing, 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 896-1244.

Splash of Jazz. Live music and munchies fill the night. 6-9 p.m., $8. Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive. Call 273-4000.

Women's Basketball: St. Louis at South Florida. 7 p.m. USF Sun Dome. Call 987-6816.

W.C., James P., and Bessie: The Geography of Jazz. There's jazz life outside of New Orleans. Find out how the music took root beyond the Big Easy. 10 p.m. 89.7 FM. Call (813) 974-8700.

Arthritis Support Group. 1:30-3 p.m. Health Source at University Mall, 2200 E Fowler Ave. Call (813) 615-7300.

23 -- SATURDAY

Cyndi Lauper. She-bop, we-bop, oh, she's still a crazy one, but also a critically admired and insightful one. 7 p.m. Jannus Landing, 16 Second St N, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 896-1244.

Old Hyde Park Village Art Festival. If a stuffy studio isn't for you, try perusing artwork outside. More than 200 artists, a few live bands and plenty of vendors selling treats will line the shopping district. Expect works of paintings, photography and sculpture. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Old Hyde Park Village, Swann and Dakota Ave. Call 251-3500.

A Night of Kings and Queens. Enough awards for outstanding African-Americans in our community to make you take a serious look at your credentials. Performances by Dunde Dole African Ballet, Motivational speaker "Les Brown" and Grammy Award recording artist "Sounds of Blackness." 7:30 p.m., $25, $30 and $50. Busch Gardens -- Das Festhaus. Call 620-1300 ext. 40.

FORML's fifth annual Washington's Birthday Hemp Festival. They stand for more than reforming marijuana laws. Hemp purists converge to teach people about uses of the plant. Bands, speakers, vendors and of course, a drum circle. 12-7 p.m. Lowry Park Band Shell. Call 779-2551.

Piano Jazz with Willie Nelson and Jackie King. Nelson has paired up with an icon of nearly every musical genre. Hear him strum it up with Jackie King in The Gypsy and Heart of a Clown. 9 p.m. WUSF 89.7 FM. Call 974-8700.

24 -- SUNDAY

Weezer. Power pop kings show Saves the Day and alternative pop/rock newbies Ozma how songs like Undone (The Sweater Song) and Buddy Holly can lift the masses out of a post-grunge depression. 7:30 p.m., $27.50. Ice Palace. Call 301-2500.

Dick Hyman: Improvisations on Bernstein. Actually, Dick Hyman and Derek Smith will play duo piano and Frank Wess and Ken Peplowski will also perform. But Hyman gets first billing for his masterful work in more than 100 recordings under his name. Plus creating numerous film scores for Woody Allen secures his position. 4 p.m., $14.50-$24.50. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall. Call 229-7892.

Melissa Ferrick. A certified member of the female rock movement spawned in the early '90s, she shows rock does have an agenda, er, heart by playing this concert for free. Proceeds will go to building the new WMNF building. She brings along locals Edie Carey, Anne O'Meara Heaton and Nini Camps. 6 p.m. $15-$18. Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road. Call 971-0666.

25 -- MONDAY

The Emperor. Tampa Bay Symphony's first cellist and veteran performer Christine Hartley performs Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor), Barber's Essay No. 2, F. Grofe's Mississippi Suite and Riegger's Dance Rhythms. 8 p.m., $10. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Carol Morsani Hall. Call (813) 229-7892

Jimmy LaFave. Having his first guitar bought for him by his mom with Green Stamps may have something to do with how hard he works. And spending time in Oklahoma may have something to do with being influenced by musicians like Woodie Guthrie, who also came from that neck of the woods. What came of it was his style of original blues, folk and rock 'n' roll. The Burn Sisters, Tom Russell with Andrew Hardin, and Ray Bonneville jam too. 6:30 p.m., $20. Skipper's Smokehouse.

Smoking Cessation: A Wellness Seminar. 6:30-8:30 p.m. University Community Hospital, Auditorium, 3100 E Fletcher Ave. Call (813) 615-7300.

26 -- TUESDAY

Swan Lake. Better a swan than an ugly duckling. Better still, a beautiful ballet for the Grigorovich Ballet company to perform and the Florida Orchestra to play. 7:30 p.m., Tues.-Wed., $18, $28, $38, $48, $60. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Carol Morsani Hall. Call (813) 229-7892

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. The immortalized Harriet Tubman comes to life when the touring group for young audiences, Theatre IV, performs this play. 10:30 a.m. The Lakeland Center, 700 W Lemon St., Lakeland. Call (800) 275-5005.

The WMNF Eclectic Folk and Acoustic Showcase. Sonia: personal and political love songs frequently bring her audience to tears. Fruit: Australian pop group recently named Best Emerging Live Act by their homeland's version of the Grammys. Be Good Tanyas: Vancouver-ites modernize traditional folk. Chris Chandler and Anne Feeney: aggressive poetry and music by a Labor Movement "rabble rouser" leaves you wondering if you should clap. Just snap to be safe. 7 p.m. Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road. Call 971-0666.

"Pretty" Paul Parsons. You're not sure whose mental health to be concerned about: his (for the sick and twisted jokes) or yours (for laughing at them). 8:30 p.m., $10. Side Splitters, 12938 N Dale Mabry Highway. Call 960-1197.

Young at Heart Senior Fun Fest. American Bandstand recording artist Mary Swan (Crying in the Chapel) and Bim Brown of Chubby Checker fame will be on hand to bring back memories. Live music spanning the '40s and beyond, antique cars, free health screenings, computer coaching, and financial planning are a few of the highlights. Sounds like too much? Then register for the 1-mile walk on a nature trail and get breakfast at Golden Corral, a T-shirt and a voucher for an IMAX movie. 7:30 a.m., $5, IMAX members; $10, nonmembers. MOSI, 4801 E Fowler Ave. Call 987-6076.

Hockey: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning. 7:30 p.m. $8-$80. Ice Palace. Call 301-2500.

Basketball: Houston Cougars at South Florida Bulls. 7:30 p.m. University of South Florida Sun Dome, 4200 E Fowler Ave. Call 987-6816.

Drive Alive 55. Defensive driving for the retirement set. 1-5 p.m., Tues.-Wed. Health Source at University Mall, 2200 E Fowler Ave. Call (813) 615-7300.

27 -- WEDNESDAY

The Tempest. Shakespeare's tale of shipwrecked survivors on a magical island may sound a bit Gilligan-like, but Will was never that simple. Throw in murder and manipulation for control of the island and have it all influenced by love and you have the roiling plot still being performed almost 400 years after it was written. 7:30 p.m., $14.50-$24.50. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall. Call 229-7892.

The WMNF Singer-Songwriter Showcase. Louise Taylor: smooth grooves and warm lyrics from chilly Vermont. Darryl Purpose: storyteller/songwriter/professional blackjack player. Arthur Godfrey: story-songs inspired by "city streets, broken hearts and torn souls." Bring a friend to lean on. Kris Delmhorst: recently gaining critical acclaim and much play time. 7 p.m., $10, $13. Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road Call 971-0666.

Tommy Blaze. His glasses aren't rose-colored when he looks at the difference between the sexes. Maybe that's what landed him a spot on the Friends season finale. 8:30 p.m. Wed.-Thur., Sun.; 8 p.m., 10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Side Splitters, 12938 N Dale Mabry Hwy. Call 960-1197.

The Mikado. With the main characters living in Titipu and names like Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum, it's no wonder people are still laughing with this comedic opera 117 years after it was written. The song Three Maids From School Are We may spark your recollection. 8 p.m., $28, $32, $35. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Rd, Clearwater. Call (727) 791-7400.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings portrayal. Writers are known to be intense people, like Rawlings, the hard-drinking, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Yearling. Local scholar Betty Jean Steinshouer will portray that side of Rawlings. Steinshouer has experience resurrecting female writers like Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein and Sarah Orne Jewett. 11 a.m.-noon. Hillsborough Community College Brandon Campus Library, 10414 Columbus Dr. Call 253-7812.

Sangria Pitcher Painting Party. Painting your perfect sangria pitcher may be easier than making the perfect pitcher of sangria. 6-9 p.m. Passion Pepper Pottery and Cafe, 2502 W Azeele St. For reservations call 877-8238.

Senior Legal Issues. 10:30-11:30 a.m. Health Source at University Mall, 2200 E Fowler Ave. Call 625-7300.

Weight Reduction: A Wellness Seminar. 6:30-8:30 p.m. University Community Hospital, Auditorium, 3100 E Fletcher Ave. Call 615-7300.

28 -- THURSDAY

John Witherspoon. There's comedy in the fact that he shares a name with a signer of the Declaration of Independence. More so, there's comedy in his performances in movies like Friday, Next Friday and Bulworth. 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat.; 10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 7 p.m., 9 p.m. Sun. Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave. C-112. Call 864-4000.

Ballet Hispanico of New York. Ballet takes a leap towards ethnic Latino dance and lands international praise. 8 p.m., $30, $35. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. Call (727) 791-7400.

Space Shuttle Launch Trip. Thanks to the flat land of Florida, shuttle launches can occasionally be seen across the state here in Tampa. If you've been that lucky, imagine reducing the distance by 130 miles so you are 6 miles from the launch site. Hop the bus at MOSI for an up-close look at the STS-109 launch (scheduled for 6:48 a.m.) to the Hubble Space Telescope, weather permitting. Bag lunches, folding chairs and cameras are recommended supplies. Ages 8 and up. MOSI members, $65; nonmembers, $85. MOSI, 4801 E. Fowler Ave. Call for reservations 987-6300.

High-Tech Fuel Cell Car. El Nino, Aqua Net and cars do a number on the environment. Ford is looking to reduce the effects of the latter with the Focus FCV, the second direct hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicle from Ford. The car boasts fuel economy and zero emissions, and is expected to hit the road in 2003. On display at MOSI Feb. 28 -- March 3, 2002. MOSI, 4801 E. Fowler Ave. Call 987-6300.

- Want to send out an RSVP to the Tampa area? Fax press releases at least 10 days before publication to Amy Abbott at (813) 226-3381, or mail to 1000 N Ashley Drive, Suite 700, Tampa, FL 33602. Amy's phone number is (813) 226-3374 and e-mail is abbott@sptimes.com.

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  • Lofts are all the rage for hip urban living
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