TAMPA (FOX 13) - Expect extra security at this year’s Florida Strawberry Festival.
Nearly 500,000 people are expected to attend the 11-day event held annually in Plant City. The event attracts vendors and patrons from Florida and around the country.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office wants to make sure visitors feel safe.
A spokesperson tells FOX 13 deputies want to be visible, watching and assisting where needed. At least 80 to 100 deputies have been assigned to work the festival, some patrolling parking lots on bikes and horseback.
Other increased security measures include more cameras, random security searches and uniformed deputies at every gate, where they’ll use hand-held metal detectors and security wands to find prohibited items.
According to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, items not allowed at the Florida Strawberry Festival include:
- Firearms (without a concealed permit)
- Stun guns and tasers
- Flare guns and flares
- All items capable of firing a projectile (or causing serious bodily injury or death)
- Improvised explosive devices and materials
- Improvised incendiary devices and materials
- Tear gas and OC Spray
- Edged weapons
- Archery equipment
- Hazardous materials, flammable materials
- Knives (including pocket knives with an overall length exceeding 5 inches)
HCSO deputies are positioned to make sure those who attend the Festival follow the rules. For the first time, there are deputies stationed outside the festival with one responsibility; patrolling the ground perimeter. Those deputies are checking for anyone who might try jumping a fence or “passing objects to someone already inside the gate.”
Two elevated sky lifts stationed in the midway also provide deputies with a “birds eye view” of crowds. The command center allows authorities to watch more than a dozen live cameras stationed throughout the festival.
According to HCSO's Major Chad Chronister, the message is simple.
“When you come to the Strawberry Festival, bring a good attitude and be ready to have fun,” said Chronister. “Leave the serious stuff to us. We’ve got you covered.”