Plant City prepares for smaller, safer Strawberry Festival

The Florida Strawberry Festival opens Thursday with measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and expectations of smaller crowds than in past years.

Organizers decided to go on with the annual festival in Plant City, but without the usual line-up of big-name musical acts.

Health department officials advised organizers that social distancing could not be achieved at the concert venue.

"We have an 11,000-seat arena that we’re not going to be able to use because there’s no way to social distance to keep people safe," said Paul Davis, president of the Florida Strawberry Festival. "That was a big paradigm shift for us to change that direction."

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Davis said the festival spent over $600,000 for touch-free bathrooms, sanitizer stations, air scrubbers, and other equipment to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said guests will be "strongly advised" to wear masks on the festival grounds and masks will the mandatory in buildings and enclosed tents.

Davis said the festival normally draws 500,000 to 600,000 people in its 10-day run. He expects 50-70% of normal attendance during this year’s festival.