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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
Belle City Amusements down slightly at Strawberry Festival
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
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The Florida Strawberry Festival in in Plant City, Florida had a successful year for their 2018 event.  Ticket sales were slightly down, but the attendance number was a booming 526,025 according to the festival media representative, Lauren McNair.  

The 11 day long annual fest, which began on March 1st, first started in 1929 when the local Lions Club came up with the idea as a way to promote the strawberry crop in the area. Today, the festival still features educational agriculture exhibits that promote strawberries, but it has grown to include a wealth of entertainment attractions including a carnival provided by Belle City Amusements and big name music acts.

Admission costs $10 for adults and teens ages 13 and up. Children ages 6-12 have an admission price of $5 while children under age 5 get in for free with a paid adult. Participating Publix grocery stores in the area sell discounted ticket for $8 for adults and $4 for children.  

Charles Panacek of Belle City Amusements says that the Publix promotion is part of an important partnership between Florida Strawberry Festival and the grocery store chain. "They market and advertise through Publix who is one of their sponsors as well.  Hopefully, we can bring more customers to Publix to get the coupons, and Publix can bring people to us."

The 2018 Florida Strawberry Festival was a successful one for Belle City Amusements  as well.  "As far as the rides and games we were on par with last year," Panacek says.  According to McNair, Belle City was only down by a slim 1% from last year. 

 "Last year we had a record year," Panacek says.  He notes that both years the festival was lucky to have excellent weather that inspired crowds to get outside and attend the event.

Belle City Amusements has been the carnival provider for the Florida Strawberry Festival for 11 years.  "We love working with Belle City," McNair says. "They are second-to-none in safety, customer service, professionalism and product quality. They have been a terrific partner for us, and we give them the highest recommendation for other fairs looking for a carnival provider."

Panacek, who has been working this fair since he was just a teenager, echoes McNair. "We're very proud to provide the midway there," he says of the partnership. "It's a great event and it's very traditional."

Another point of pride for Belle City Amusements is that they are celebrating 70 years in the industry in 2018.  They have had a specialized logo designed to commemorate their many years of  carnival service.  As the season continues they plan to add a few 70th anniversary themed promotions in their future events.

However, at the Florida Strawberry Festival, the theme was strawberries, of course.  Panacek says that they add the delicious berry to the midway in a few different fun ways.

One sweet and innovative way that Belle City Amusements adds strawberry flavor to the midway is with a unique treat.  "We do deep fried strawberries," Panacek says that the strawberries are dipped in a sweet batter and fried.  Then they are dusted with some powdered sugar and drizzled with a strawberry glaze. "Currently we have them only on the carnival midway and they went over very well this year."  Panacek's daughter, Charlotte Panacek, came up with the idea.

"We also bring in two strawberry spin rides," he explains. "Normally we don't duplicate, but for this specific event we bring in two."

Another way that Panacek doubles up at this festival is by including two midways at the Florida Strawberry Festival.  This way the kiddie section is completely separate so that parents have a designated area for little ones away from the hustle and bustle of thrill rides.  The set up was well received by attendees.

Belle City Amusements also added a new food item to the fair this year called Pork Legs.  

"It's basically a pork chop on a stick," Panacek explains. "You can walk around with it and you don't necessarily have to have a seating area.  Sometimes food items are regional, they do well in one place, but not another.  This one will be popular across the board."

Also popular at the Florida Strawberry Festival was the Giant Wheel, the top grosser for Belle City Amusements.  "It almost always is," he says, noting that it appeals to all age groups and has a great nostalgia factor.

The most popular thrill ride was the Rock 'N' Roll Himalaya.  The company's two roller coasters and the Magnum ride, provided by Michael Wood, which is the only one in the United States, were also popular with thrill seekers.

Patrons of the fair found some great midway savings with special promotions such as Coca-Cola Family Day which was held on both Sundays and offered $5 off of a $25 wristband when the buyer brought along a Coca- Cola product.  Another special deal was Moonlight Magic Night which allowed guests unlimited rides for $25 per person from 10PM to 2AM on the final Friday of the festival.  This night was especially popular with teens and young adults.

Famous headline entertainment brought guests to the fair as well.  Plenty of folks came out to see music legends like Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley for an additional ticket price in the $20 to $50 range.  The musical entertainment area of the festival also included VIP experience packages for acts like Vanilla Ice for $235 and Salt-N-Pepa for $185.  The Florida Strawberry Festival had both evening and matinee shows, many of which were sold out.

"They draw big crowds so it helps us," Panacek says of the impressive musical acts.

As for next year, Belle City Amusements is always finding ways to grow and make the Florida Strawberry Festival bigger and better.

"We normally bring in at least one or two new rides every year," Panacek says.  Plus throughout the year Belle City Amusements works with the festival on coordinating new ideas to reach new customers. Panacek says, "We work together hand in hand on promotions.  It's a real partnership, and it's a great event."

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