As its 80th anniversary approaches, the Florida Strawberry Festival is compiling its history.
And its asking local residents for their help.
The festival is searching for old photos, souvenirs and other memorabilia as it seeks to chronicle its role as the premiere celebration of King Strawberry.
“We want the kind of stuff that someone has tucked away in an old photo album or in a box they inherited over the years,” said Al Berry, festival director emeritus who will help sort through the memorabilia.
The festival was founded in 1930 by the Plant City Lions Club and has been held annually except for a five-year break during and after World War II. The 80th festival will be Feb. 26-March 8.
The festival has an archives room chock full of photos, programs and advertisements, but the collection is sparse for the first three decades, media relations director Lauren Der said.
“If people have anything up to the 1950s, that would be fantastic. We have very little from the early years,” said Der, who will help write the history book.
“We’d love to learn about little known stories about the festival,” she added.
General Manager Paul Davis said the festival’s archives will provide much of content for the book.
“We know there is a lot more out there. Maybe someone’s grandfather left them an old brochure or photo. We want to get as much as we can so we can make our history as accurate as we can,” Davis said.
The collection is especially sparse from the first festival, which was staged in a field near the current location of the Plant City Courthouse. The festival’s relics from 1930 include a reproduction of the first program, photos of the first strawberry festival queen, Charlotte Rosenberg, and little else.
The festival is interested in vintage newspaper articles, photos, brochures, advertisements and any other keepsakes, Davis said.
This is the most ambitious attempt to document the festival’s history, Davis said. A writer was hired several years ago to write a festival history, but the book was never published over questions about the accuracy over parts of the work, Davis said.
Berry, former festival director Terry Ballard and Plant City Photo Archives and History Center Executive Director Gil Gott are among the committee members who will oversee the project.
Berry and Davis say they’d like to see the book released in time for the next festival. Davis said its doubtful it will be ready by then, but should be completed sometime next year.
When it is released, it will be available for purchase.
“We want this to be the most accurate, comprehensive history of the festival that we can possibly have,” Davis said. “This is the kind of a book that will be of interest to anyone who wants to know about the festival.”