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Definition of fun: shortcake on a hay bale

Undaunted by overcast skies, lovers of the sweet red berry and whipped cream flock to Floral City for the annual Strawberry Festival.

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 2, 2003

[Times photos: Stephen Coddington]
Paige Holt, 2 1/2 of Inverness, chews on a mouthful of strawberry shortcake offered by her grandmother Karen Austin, left, while Paige's mother, Laura Holt, right, enjoys her own at the Floral City Strawberry Festival.

FLORAL CITY -- It was all gray above Saturday morning, but that didn't stop folks from getting to the red.

From the north on two-lane U.S. 41 S, they drove under the danglings of mossy oak trees into Floral City, passing a Ferris Farms stand on the left with boxes of fresh strawberries.

But that was just a little preview for what was about 2 miles ahead at the Floral City Strawberry Festival.

Admission stamper Joel Redd broke down the festival's must-do's: "Crafts and eating," he said.

He added: "Not necessarily in that order."

Before 10 a.m., the weak already were eating strawberry shortcakes.

"Nothing like strawberries for breakfast," commented the man at the stand.

About 9:30 a.m., those working at the strawberry shortcake stand -- conveniently located close to the entrance -- were just getting started.

So was Jean Roberts of Beverly Hills, who was having her shortcake on a hay bale near a tree.
Penny Wilson tops off a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.
"Mmmmm," she said, eyeing what her husband, Fred, walked back with: ice cream topped with strawberries. "Maybe that's next, huh?"

"I like strawberries, but they don't like me," Fred Roberts said. He already was anticipating how sorry he'd feel after all the eating.

There were boxes of fresh strawberries for sale, and big chocolate-covered ones, too.

"This is good," said one teenage girl to another, taking a bite of her chocolate-covered strawberry.

"Yeah it is," her companion agreed. Walking along a path, between displays of all kinds of crafts, you could catch whiffs of kettle corn and something fried.

People browsed over pillows, pottery, wood crafts, framed artwork and things for the garden, while antique, 1928-to-1931 Fords from the Citrus Model A's club paraded into a field between the craft booths, honking their old-style horns.

"Cool, look at the old truck!" said one boy.

Jean Roberts likes how they put the hay bales out at this festival because you can always find a place to sit.

The hay's part of the atmosphere, too. She said, "It's country out here, you know."

The Roberts had been to another strawberry festival before, two to three years ago. It was too crowded, like a carnival, Jean Roberts said.

"This is a lot better."

-- Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or

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