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Plant City Times & Observer

2014 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

ENTERTAINMENT GUIDE

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:

THE BAND PERRY

SEE PAGE 11 ALSO INSIDE:

STYX, PAGE 6 BOYZ II MEN, PAGE 8 KELLIE PICKLER, PAGE 9 CAROLINE KOLE, PAGE 12 AND MUCH MORE! Plant City Times & Observer

Meet the 2014 Strawberry Festival Queen and Court See Page 4 Plant City Serves Up Strawberry Recipes, Pages 16-17 1


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2014 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL


WELCOME TO THE 2014

FLORIDA

STRAWBERRYFESTIVAL! T

he Florida Strawberry Festival is a special occasion during which Plant City shines. The entire town pauses for 11 days to celebrate our bountiful agricultural harvest. On behalf of our more than 2,000 volunteers, our staff members and our board of directors, I welcome you to the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival. Here is a sneak peek of what you can look forward to this year. One of the most popular facets of the festival, our headline entertainment, boasts one of our best lineups to date. From Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry to Third Day and Boyz II Men, we offer a diverse lineup that is sure to please every one of our visitors. Your admission ticket also includes more free entertainment this year than ever before.

We have added a brand new variety stage, sponsored by Paradise Grilling Systems, that will feature different entertainers each day. Here, Hola! Plant City, Next Radical Generation, Shannon Magrane (from “American Idol”) and more will make their festival debuts. We also are excited to host Troy Landry, and R.J. and Jay Paul Molinere from the History Channel’s “Swamp People,” and Bobby Brantley from TruTV’s “Lizard Lick Towing.” Since last year’s festival, we have undergone some constructive changes. We have built a new home for our popular Neighborhood Village and horticulture show. They now will be housed in the new building located next to the administrative building. The art show also will be relocated to the Armory Building, the previous location of the Neighborhood Village. We always encourage our guests to visit the pride of our

community, our youth, as they exhibit their livestock projects in the Florida Strawberry Festival Grimes Family Agricultural Center and display their craftsmanship in the Neighborhood Village Youth exhibit, art show exhibit and more. We encourage you to visit your local Publix Super Market to purchase admission tickets for your entire family at a discounted rate. For more information and the schedule of events for this year’s festival, visit flstrawberryfestival.com. We also encourage each visitor to download our mobile app, available in iTunes and Google Play, to better prepare you for your festival experience. Our festival is truly one of a kind. Please join us at the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival as we celebrate our community’s blessings with “Florida’s Best Family Recipe!” Paul Davis, general manager, Florida Strawberry Festival

Plant City Times &

Observer General Manager/Editorial / Michael Eng, meng@PlantCityObserver.com General Manager/Advertising / Tony Del Castillo, tdelcastillo@tampabay.com Assistant Managing Editor / Jess Eng, jeng@PlantCityObserver.com Associate Editor / Amber Jurgensen, ajurgensen@PlantCityObserver.com Staff Writer / Justin Kline, jkline@PlantCityObserver.com Advertising Executives / Veronica Prostko, vprostko@tampabay.com; Joanna Verga, jverga@tampabay.com Circulation/Office Manager / Linda Lancaster, llancaster@PlantCityObserver.com

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FESTIVAL MAKES TRAFFIC-FLOW IMPROVEMENTS

COURT MEMBER | KALLEE COOK

If the commute to and from the Florida Strawberry Festival has been an annual headache, raise your hand. Now, breathe a sigh of relief: Many of the problems have been addressed. According to Phil Waldron, who oversees traffic policies and procedures for the festival, the Plant City Police Department has examined all the problem areas, such as Oak Street and Gate 1, and helped draft solutions. “(Before) when traffic (got) bad, we (blocked) Oak from Lemon to Woodrow Wilson,” Waldron says. “Now, we’re splitting the use.” Oak, from Lemon Street to Woodrow Wilson Street, now will be a one-way street, with areas for pedestrian walkways. This allows for better internal flow into the parking lot, helps get the pedestrians out of the way of oncoming traffic and fixes one of the biggest jumbles of the past. “It’s a major change — the first year we’re trying this,” Waldron says. In addition, eastbound traffic now will re-route through Forbes Road, going south past U.S. 92 and down to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. This should take some pressure off of directing traffic through Alexander Street and also lead Tampa visitors to a parking area out of the way of most people traveling from Plant City. The festival also has examined the parking on the grounds and worked to improve that experience. It purchased space from the Howell family for a new, 1.7-acre parking lot, located on the north side of Tomlin Middle School. “It’ll handle a lot of cars, we think,” General Manager Paul Davis says. “Somewhere around 200 to 250. It’ll be easy to get to.” The new parking lot is dubbed the Mason & Annie Mae Howell Parking Lot, in honor of the original land owners. Volunteers from Plant City Church of God will handle parking, and proceeds from parking will be split between the festival and the church. — Justin Kline

Who came to support you? My whole family did. ... My dad, he usually doesn’t come to these events, but he came. Having him come out was amazing.

The new Mason & Annie Mae Howell Parking Lot will add more than 200 parking spaces.

Queen & Court

Courtesy of Stephanie Humphrey Photography

THE 2014 STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL

To become a member of the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen and Court is to enter a special Plant City sisterhood. Five new young women were inducted into that elite group Jan. 25, at the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen Scholarship Program. Queen Jessi Rae Varnum, First Maid Lindsey English and court members Macaley Barrow, Kallee Cook and Caitlyn Kent will become the faces of the festival during their yearlong reign.

THE QUEEN | JESSI RAE VARNUM

Tell us about your experience at the pageant? It was so crazy for me, because I’ve watched it since I was like 8 years old. So, I knew everything that was required, but you never know what it really feels like until you’re on that stage. At the final two, what were you thinking? ‘Oh my goodness I can actually win.’ I was like, ‘I’m still up here. This is crazy. This could actually happen.’ Any advice or tips for future competitors? As long as you feel confident and beautiful and poised, you’ll come across that way on stage. ... If you are loving yourself, then everyone else will love you. How does it feel to follow in your mother’s footsteps? Yes, she won in 1985. I’m actually wearing this rhinestone crown pin that was hers. I look forward to passing it down one day as a nice heirloom.

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FIRST MAID | LINDSEY ENGLISH

What are you most looking forward to as first maid? I am most looking forward to learning more about the strawberry industry and what all the farmers … go through. What was it like standing up there just the two of you? I was awestruck. It was great knowing that I had the opportunity to become the queen, but it’s also great knowing that she’s going to be one of the people who is going to lead.

COURT MEMBER | CAITLYN KENT

What was your favorite part about the pageant? I really enjoyed casual wear. It was the most upbeat portion of the pageant. What was it like being in the top five? I was just so blessed and so thankful, because I knew no matter what position I got on the court, I would be able to be part of all the activities.

COURT MEMBER | MACALEY BARROW

Tell us about your experience at the pageant. It was really exciting, because when I was 8 years old, that was the very first time I went. ... So, getting to experience it was something I really enjoyed. What was the easiest thing about the pageant? Going out there and doing your walk and doing your best.

As a child, did you attend the pageant? Every year, I always looked forward to going to the pageant and looking forward to see who the new queen and court (would be).

Courtesy photo

2014 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL


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STYX

W

hen a band tours practically nonstop for 15 years, it’s difficult for its members to remember when they played certain shows. But, in some cases, they’ll clearly remember the venue. Rock legends Styx count the Florida Strawberry Festival as one such venue. “We did play it once, and it was fantastic,” singer and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan says. “It’s a fabulous combo: You put Styx with the strawberries, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.” Gowan and his bandmates are about to return to the festival’s Wish Farms Soundstage for one of their first Florida dates of the year; they’ll hit the road after their Plant City performance for a few months and plan to return to the Sunshine State in late May — starting with a show May 20, at Ruth Eckerd Hall, in Clearwater.

STYX WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 TICKETS: $25 and $30 WEBSITE: styxworld. com

The Plant City performance should appeal to longtime Styx fans — the band plans to play many of its biggest hits, including “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Yourself” and “Renegade.” “‘Renegade’ is my favorite song to do every night, and I don’t even sing lead on it,” Gowan says. “The audience gets really into it.” And, the rockers will have plenty of opportunities to play it. Styx has no plans to stop touring anytime soon, even though Gowan does wish the band had time to return to the recording studio. The last time the band released an album with all-new material was

in 2003, when it recorded “Cyclorama.” “We’ve been planning to get in the studio for seven years now but haven’t found the time,” Gowan says. “It takes about six months to record an album. ... There’s always this impending ‘next adventure’ coming up that cuts into our recording time.” Styx won’t be in town for long, with a concert in Melbourne planned for Friday, but the band plans to enjoy the Florida weather after spending three days in freezing-cold Milwaukee. Locals may even find the Chicago rockers sampling Plant City’s famous tastes. They, like the rest of the festival-goers, can’t wait to indulge in the strawberry shortcakes and Parkesdale milkshakes. “I didn’t take part in any competitions last time we played the festival,” Gowan says. “But, I could have qualified with how much food I ate.” — Justin Kline

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BOYZIIMEN B

oyz II Men, the four-time longevity later in the decade. Grammy-winning act, will And although Boyz II Men’s illusbring its soulful sound to the trious career has taken its members Florida Strawberry Festival this year all over the world, this year marks for the first time. the group’s first stop at the Winter “We’re excited be a part of this Strawberry Capital of the World. show, with talented artists like “We are fortunate enough to The Band Perry and Lee Brice and have played a number of festivals, Rascal Flatts,” says founding membut this will actually be our first ber Shawn Stockman. “We want time at the (Florida) Strawberry to bring our own edge and flavor Festival,” Stockman says. “We’re to the stage, so we’re definitely definitely looking forward to perlooking forward (to it).” forming and showing all of our The American R&B vocal group Florida fans a good time.” comprises members Nathan Morris, The group started in the Wayne Morris and Stockman. mid-1980s at the Philadelphia Michael McCary was a member of High School for the Creative the original quartet but left in 2003 and Performing Arts as Unique for health reasons. Attraction. In 1992, “End of the Road” “We’re from Philadelphia, which hit No. 1 on the has a very vibrant arts Billboard Hot 100 and music scene, so BOYZ II MEN and stayed at the we definitely went to WHEN: 7:30 p.m. top spot for a recorda lot of local festivals Friday, March 7 breaking 13 weeks. and events growing The group’s subseup — especially ones TICKETS: $20 and quent hits, “I’ll Make $25 with live music,” Love to You” and Stockman says. WEBSITE: boyzi“One Sweet Day,” Inspired by New imen.com broke that record of Edition, Boyz II Men

• • • • •

Courtesy photo

renamed itself after a New Edition song. When Boyz II Men’s members made it backstage at a New Edition show, they managed to get member Michael Bivins to listen to them. He saw potential. Boyz II Men’s first album, “Cooleyhighharmony,” sold more than nine million copies and won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1992. Even after more than 20 years of performing, Stockman says he still enjoys taking the stage. “Just seeing the reaction from

the fans and getting to connect with the audience,” Stockman says. “We feed off of their energy. As an artist, there’s nothing more satisfying than putting your all into a performance and showing the fans a great time.” Currently, Boyz II Men has a residency at the Mirage in Las Vegas, which has been extended through 2014. The group also is working on a new album. “We have a lot of exciting things happening,” Stockman said. — Amber Jurgensen

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KELLIEPICKLER A

lthough some Plant both breast cancer awareCity residents may not ness and her best friend, KELLIE PICKLER have been too happy Summer Miller. With a WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, about last month’s nippy newer look and an updated March 4 weather, country music darsetlist, Pickler is excited to TICKETS: $15 and $20 ling Kellie Pickler knows it give her fans a new expericould be much worse. ence. WEBSITE: kelliepickler.com “Don’t complain about “I’m excited to come back how cold it is in Florida,” to Plant City and have new Pickler says. “I’m in Ohio, and it’s freezing!” songs to perform,” Pickler says. “There will Hopefully, it will be much warmer in be lots of radio songs and new material. It’s Plant City when she takes the Wish Farms always nice to freshen things up.” Soundstage March 4, at the Florida Strawberry Her latest album, “The Woman I Am,” was Festival, for one last U.S. tour date before a released in November 2013 to critical acclaim trip Down Under. The concert will be her secand reached No. 19 in the Billboard 200. It ond in Plant City in five years and the last U.S. spawned the singles, “Someone Somewhere tour date before she heads to Australia, and Tonight,” “Little Bit Gypsy” and “Closer to it’s not just the balmy weather that’s bringing Nowhere.” She released the other album, her back. “100 Proof” in January 2012. “I love Florida and the people there,” She’s touring the globe in support of Pickler says. “I love the energy. It’s beautiful her latest album, with a few Australia and hard not to have a good time.” dates scheduled for mid-March and some A lot has happened since she last perSwitzerland stops planned. Despite the formed at the festival. In the past five years, robust travel schedule, Pickler rarely gets to Pickler has released two new albums, gotten play the role of the tourist. married and won “Dancing with the Stars” in “I was so consumed with ‘Dancing with the its 2013 run with partner Derek Hough. Also, Stars’ and living in L.A. last year, in a studio, Pickler made waves in 2012 by allowing Ellen so I’m excited to travel now,” she says. “I may DeGeneres to shave her head on national extend the (Australia) trip for a few days — television. The gesture was done in support of for play time.”

Courtesy photo

Although she won’t be in Plant City long enough to be a tourist, Pickler knows she’ll have fun at the festival. “I’m looking forward to more strawberries,” Pickler says. “Last time, they stocked my tour bus full of strawberries. My best friend, Summer, hopped on the bus, and we took lots of funny pictures with them. Those were the biggest strawberries I’ve ever seen — like, strawberries on steroids!” — Justin Kline

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THEBANDPERRY T

he 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival will culminate with one of the hottest acts in American country music. Huddled up in Canada last month, The Band Perry will migrate south for the Florida Strawberry Festival in the middle of its world tour. The 2014 appearance will be the siblings’ second time performing in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. The first time, they couldn’t get enough of Plant City’s famous fruit. “I think this year, they’re going to pay us in strawberries,” bassist Reid Perry says, laughing. The group, comprising siblings Reid, Neil and Kimberly Perry, officially formed in 2005, although they had been performing together since their childhood years. When

THE BAND PERRY WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday,

March 9

TICKETS: $40 WEBSITE: thefansperry.com

Courtesy photo

Kimberly fronted her first band at 15, she used her younger brothers as roadies. Not wanting to be stuck in their sister’s shadow, Reid and Neil formed their own band. But, the three eventually came together in true harmony. As a trio, they were booked for the New Faces of Country Tour. In 2008, they caught the eye of Garth Brooks’ manager, Bob Doyle, and

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label executives Jimmy Harnen and Scott Borchetta. One year later, The Band Perry signed with Republic Nashville and released its debut single, “Hip to My Heart.” But it was the single on the band’s self-titled EP, “If I Die Young,” that became a household tune. With the help of producers Nathan Chapman and Paul Worley, the single shot to No. 1 on the country charts.

At this year’s concert, The Band Perry plans to promote its new songs from the album, “Pioneer,” released last year. In 2012, the band began working with producer Rick Rubin on the second album and ended the session with producer Dann Huff. The second single, “Done,” charted No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart and the third single, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely” reached No. 2. “One of the things people can expect are a lot more news songs,” Neil says. “Of course, we’ll play our old songs, too.” Kimberly is looking forward to performing “Chainsaw.” “If Led Zeppelin and Dixie Chicks had a love child,” Kimberly says of the new song. Traveling the south as younger musicians, the trio has performed its fair share of festivals, carnivals and even crawfish boils. “It’s really exciting for us to play different shows,” Neil says. “We love playing outside, too. The (Florida) Strawberry Festival will be a good one.” Following its Plant City appearance, The Band Perry will take the tour overseas for dates in Dublin, Ireland and London, England, before returning to North America. — Amber Jurgensen

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CAROLINEKOLE I

n many ways, Caroline Kole is a young soul. And she should be — she’s only 16. But already, she’s been climbing the country music charts and earning airtime. Still, the Tampa Bay native, who now lives in Nashville, gets excited about the little things in life. She remembers her first snow day in Tennessee. Kole has been performing at a variety of venues since she was 10 years old. This will be the fourth year the up-and-coming artist will perform at the Florida Strawberry Festival. “I’m honored to be considered a veteran on that stage,” Kole says. “It’s huge. I’m so excited to perform and be back home.” For the past year, Kole has opened for Reba McEntire, who also signed Kole to her record label, Starstruck Entertainment. She hopes to announce another year of

CAROLINE KOLE WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday,

March 8

TICKETS: Free WEBSITE: carolinekole.com

touring at this year’s festival and can’t wait to get her hands on some Krispy Kreme hamburgers and funnel cake. “Touring with Reba has just been incredible,” Kole says. “All her friends and fans are becoming mine.” In addition to having the Queen of Country by her side, Kole also has benefited from her longtime relationship with the festival. Kole began performing in Plant City when she was just a pre-teen. “Paul (Davis, general manager) and Lee (Bakst, assistant manager) were so kind to let me play,” Kole says. “I was only 12 and didn’t even have a band. Our band formed

for the festival. Then, we all moved to Nashville.” Kole just recorded her first music video, “Money to Me,” on her birthday. It rose in the CMT video rankings by fan vote. Kole saw many of her fans from the Plant City area voting for her video. She also has stayed connected with fans from Shiloh Charter School, where she performed when she was just 10 years old. She recently released a six-track EP. Although her career has taken her out of the Sunshine State, Kole says she always will be a hometown girl. “Performing at every event is incredible,” Kole says. “The bigger the better, but I prefer my hometown crowd. It’s so nice to see familiar faces. And after I get off the stage, I can go to my grandma’s house, swim in the pool and eat chicken fingers.” — Amber Jurgensen

Courtesy photo

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2014 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL


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LEEBRICE L

114286-01

ee Brice seems to approach music like a point guard handles a basketball game: He does well for himself and makes his teammates look good, too. The South Carolinaborn country singer has had just as much success writing songs for other Courtesy photo artists as he has for himself. He has three chart-topping singles from the procedure, he decided he to his own name and co-wrote hits didn’t have the motivation to continfor Garth Brooks and the Eli Young ue football or to become a civil engiBand, among others. Music came so neer, as he had planned originally. naturally for Brice that he quit two So, he returned to music. He possible careers — engineering and was primarily a songwriter when, football — to pursue his dream of in 2007, he had the opportunity to becoming a big-time country star. write for Brooks, his idol. Brice then Brice began his music career on signed to Nashville’s Curb Records the piano, singing and playing for and released the single, “She Ain’t the crowd at church, and picked up Right.” In 2009, Brice’s single, “Love the guitar to write his own melodies. Like Crazy” appeared on the country He also had established himself chart. It went Top 10 in July 2010, as a football player peaking at No. 3, and took his talents and remained on the LEE BRICE to Clemson. Brice chart for 56 weeks. WHEN: 7:30 p.m. served as long His 2011 single, “A Wednesday, March 5 snapper, until an Woman Like You,” TICKETS: $20 and $25 arm injury required became his first No. 1 surgery to correct. single. WEBSITE: leebrice.com While recovering — Justin Kline 114292-01

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2014 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL


COLTFORD P

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LITTLEBIGTOWN F

itting in with that found success. an all-star It was certified platLITTLE BIG TOWN country cast, Little inum in the United WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Big Town will take States and proSaturday, March 1 the Wish Farms duced consecutive Soundstage top-10 singles on TICKETS: $40 Saturday, March the country charts WEBSITE: littlebig1. The quartet’s in “Boondocks” town.com lineup — Karen and “Bring It On Fairchild, Kimberly Home.” Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook For newer fans, the 2010 and Phillip Sweet — has album, “The Reason Why” remained the same since its produced the top-10 hit, 1998 inception. Little Big “Little White Church.” 2012’s Town’s self-titled debut released “Tornado” also has found great in 2002, on Monument success, with Little Big Town’s Records. But, it was the group’s first No. 1 hit, “Pontoon.” — Amber Jurgensen second album, “Road to Here,”

erhaps none of the performers at this year’s Florida Strawberry Festival has a story with as much variety as country star Colt Ford. The big, Georgian singer-songwriter, born Jason Farris Brown, is notable for having blended country music with hiphop to create a style not often heard in today’s country scene. Although the hip-hop influence doesn’t show up in all of his newest material, Ford’s stardom continues to grow each year. His newest album, 2012’s “Declaration of Independence,” peaked at No. 5 on Courtesy photo the Billboard 200 and No. 1 overall on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and for himself. In 2008, he co-founded Independent Albums charts. his own record label, Average Joes Before he became a country star, Entertainment, with Shannon “Fat Ford was trying to follow two passions Shan” Houchins, and created an avenue at once: music and golf. He played for musicians in both of his favorite competitively for 10 years under his genres. Superstar duo Montgomery real name, which included some time Gentry is one group currently signed to as an instructor and a brief stint on the the main label. The label’s subsidiaries, Nationwide Tour. But eventually, he Backroad and AVJ, sign artists in country realized he would have to give up one rap and more urban music, respectively. profession to follow the Ford has been tourother full-time. ing extensively since the COLT FORD His fusion of counrelease of “Declaration of WHEN: 7:30 p.m. try music and hip-hop Independence” and curFriday, Feb. 28 didn’t get him much rently is promoting a new time on the radio early single with Jake Owen, TICKETS: $15 and $20 in his career, but Ford “Back.” WEBSITE: coltford.com eventually carved a niche — Justin Kline

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stopped to grab several flats of Plant City’s famous crop. But, now what? Have no fear. Some of Plant City’s best chefs have shared their favorite strawberry recipes for you to try.

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During the winter strawberry season, when the berries are plentiful, Devon Higginbotham stashes her excess in the freezer for smoothies. If you want to keep them from freezer burn, use a vacuum sealer. INGREDIENTS: Dozen frozen berries (or about a cup of frozen fruit)

1/2 banana 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 cup apple juice (or any fruit juice) 1 teaspoon honey

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1 Vidalia onion, sliced into thin strips 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped 8 tablespoons blueberry vinaigrette

1 head of butter lettuce or sweet frisee lettuce, chopped fine 1 pound fresh Wish Farms strawberries, sliced

BLUEBERRY VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS:

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METHOD: • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Top each flatbread with 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Place on pizza pans or pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit. • Melt butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and let them cook until they are deep golden brown and caramelized. Season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. • Add 1/4 of the onions on top of each flatbread and spread evenly. Place 1/2 of the sliced strawberries on top of the onions. Place back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. • Remove from the oven and plate when slightly cooled. • Add 1/4 of the lettuce to each flatbread. Top with remaining strawberries, crumbled goat cheese and walnuts, evenly divided on each flatbread. • Drizzle each Flatbread salad with 2 tablespoons of blueberry vinaigrette.

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STRAWBERRY GOAT CHEESE FLATBREAD SALAD | WISH FARMS There’s no shortage of delicious strawberry-themed recipes on Wish Farms’ website. From desserts to breakfast, there’s something for everyone. Family Foodie is the blogger that developed the flatbread salad.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup balsamic

vinegar 4 tablespoon water 2 tablespoon honey

METHOD: • Add all ingredients to a food processor and process on high for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. Use strainer to remove any of the blueberry bits. • Add to a glass jar or mason jar. Store in refrigerator overnight. Shake well before serving.

2014 FLORIDA STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL


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CLEAN EATING STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE | EMILIE PLANTS After making a complete body transformation in the past year, former Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Court member Emilie Plants has started her own personal training bootcamp. She loves to peruse the web for health and fitness blogs. She found this paleo-friend option online. SHORTCAKE INGREDIENTS: 1/3 cup coconut flour 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted 2 to 4 tablespoons raw honey (depending on desired sweetness)

4 eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon baking powder Dash of salt

WHIPPED CREAMINGREDIENTS: 1 can unsweetened coconut milk, refrigerated

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 to 2 teaspoon raw honey

METHOD: • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three muffin tins with coconut oil. In a large bowl, beat together coconut oil, raw honey, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until well-combined. Pour into tins (leave room for rising). • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, carefully remove and let cool completely. • Meanwhile, take coconut milk out of fridge and skim off the solid part into a mixing bowl. Don’t use the watery part. Beat the solid milk until peaks begin to form. Then add vanilla and honey, and beat for a few more minutes. • Once the shortcakes are cooled, cut them in half. Top one with whipped cream and strawberries, stack the other half of the shortcake on top, and then add more whipped cream and strawberries. Enjoy without guilt!

For more strawberry recipes from local personalities, visit PlantCityObserver.com.

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AGIRL& HER‘GUS’ Third-grader Kenley Connell is showing livestock for the first time at the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival. She hopes to impress the judges with her preparation and her pig, Gus.

Gus is a 265-pound Hampshire pig and looks like a giant Double Stuf Oreo cookie. Kenley Connell is an outgoing Lincoln Elementary School third-grader, who is maybe one-third of the size of her pig. Together, they make quite the team. Kenley and Gus are gearing up for the ag competitions at the 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival, which they’ve entered for the first time. “It was just something she wanted to do, and she asked us if she

could do it,” her father, Joel Connell, says. “So, we entered her in the drawing, and she was fortunate enough to be drawn. I think there were 200-and-something applicants, and they drew 85 pigs.” The Connells found Gus, a Hampshire/ Yorkshire mix, in Ohio, and brought him to Plant City for Kenley to raise. Now 6 months old, the pig has matured considerably since arriving in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. Much like a puppy, he grew calmer as

Courtesy photo

Kenley Connell and her 265-pound pig, Gus, are ready to compete at the Florida Strawberry Festival. he got older and bigger. “He’s a big baby,” Kenley says. The third-grader has no fear of Gus, even though he is big and strong enough to knock down a grown man. She walks up to the pen to let him out of his cage and, as soon as he’s done running around for a minute or so, gets him to respond to her directions. Think

of Gus as a wide, funnylooking, well-trained dog. Kenley is good with animals, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who visits the Connell property. There are 302 animals, large and small, roaming around at any given time. Kenley, a member of the 4-H Club, isn’t only interested in animals and agriculture. When she’s not playing with her three

dogs, she’s likely to be found with her nose in a good book. “My favorite subject in school is reading, because I really enjoy books and how they talk to me,” she says. She says the book she’s currently reading, “Sharon M. Draper’s Out of My Mind,” is her favorite. But, her mind is mostly on her upcoming competition. In addition to Gus being graded, Kenley’s presentation skills also will be judged. She’s optimistic about this year’s showing and already wants to show a steer in 2015. Her parents, Joel and Erika, fully support her. “If she can sell her pig and make a few dollars, that would be good,” Joel says. “But, that’s not really why we’re doing it. We just want her to learn how to raise the animal, show the animal and to learn responsibility.” — Justin Kline

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2014 Florida Strawberry Festival Entertainment Guide