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Florida Strawberry Festival

Plant City, Florida
March 2-12, 2023

Each year nearby Plant City, the Strawberry Capital of the South, hosts the Florida Strawberry Festival.

It is a fun event, and students in eastern Hillsborough County are given a day off to attend the fair, which has a midway, numerous food and beverage vendors, an amphitheater that daily offers shows with groups such as the Oakridge Boys and Alabama, and numerous judging events such as with livestock and crafts.

One of the judged events is Horticulture, and this year Joyce decided to again compete. She last competed in 2019, before we were consumed with COVID-19 precautions.

In previous competitions, such as at the Florida State Fair and the Strawberry Fest, Joyce has competed very successfully, winning numerous Blue Ribbons and even some Best in Show awards. (A perhaps overly simplified explanation of Best in Show is that you not only have the Blue Ribbon winner in the banana category, but that your banana category winner is better that the winners of all other fruit categories ... so in this example you are Best among all fruits competing.)

So back to this year, where Joyce's main entries in Horticulture would be in the Fairy Dish Garden event and in the Cactus competition.

The first task was to find a suitable container for the garden, since a simple, though elegant, dish wouldn't be enough. Joyce found just what she wanted at the same shop in Plant City where she purchased the antique bird cage that was used for her Best of Show winner in 2019. She would house her Fairy Dish Garden in two metal-frame frogs with a complementing metal bug. These would ultimately be tied together to make one unified container, as required by the rules.

Then there were multiple trips to Home Depot and Lowes to find just the right plant soil, plant food, and plant s. Joyce also had plants mailed in from Arizona and California. And there was a trip to Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree to get the fairies and their fairy homes.

As the plants were collected they had to be cared for. And different plants need to be cared for in different ways. Some need sun; some need shade. Some need water; some could have only a very, very small amount of water. Joyce could be found many nights awake and out "manicuring" her plants.

And finally it was get-the-plants-to-the-Fair day. According to Joyce every bump in the road between Brandon and Plant City threatened to destroy her work, but we somehow made it intact to the exhibition building where her Fairy Dish Garden and her other two submissions, cacti, were duly registered into the competition.

(Click on any slide to enlarge it.)

On the first day of the fair Joyce was really excited to confirm how she had done (as one of her friends who was a fair insider got an early peak of the judging results).

When Joyce arrived, she was overwhelmed by the recognition her plants had received:
    Results of the Florida Strawberry Festival Horticulture Competition included ....
    • Joyce - Best Fairy Garden (Green Ribbon)
    • Joyce - Best Cactus (Yellow Ribbon)
    • Joyce - Best of Show! (Maroon and Blue Ribbon)

    The cactus with the yellow ribbon has the common name of "Monk's Hood."

    The cactus with the Best of Show Ribbon has the common name "Mother of hundred."

    Joyce's Fairy Dish Garden entry had a frame of two metal frogs with a metal bug on top. The Fairy Garden has 28 different species of succulents and cacti. When Joyce delivered the Fairy Garden to the exhibit on Monday, the other ladies who had entries in that category essentially said, "Oh, poop." The Best of Show win meant that Joyce's entry was better than every other entry in every other category, and there were about 150-200 entries.


Joyce also really enjoyed talking with members of the Plant City Garden Club, and sharing her gardening expertise when it was sought.


In addition to activities involving the horticulture competition, Jay and Joyce attended the Oak Ridge Boys show at the amphitheater where they had nice seat$. The Oak Ridge Boys, all about the age of Jay and Joyce, put on a very good show featuring most of their hit country and pop songs, and closing with - of course - Elvira.

Jay and Joyce also sampled some strawberry festival food, walked through three or four of the exhibit halls, and made the almost mandatory purchase of strawberry cookies. Patronizing the Saint Clement Catholic Church strawberry shortcake concession was also on the to-do list.

A good time!



More ribbons to add to Joyce's collection!!!