PLANT CITY The Florida Strawberry Festival has purchased nearly 3 acres from a pioneer family to add enough parking space for 200 cars.
The land at Woodrow Wilson and Risk streets had been in the Howell family since the 1800s. The new parking lot was dedicated Friday in memory of Mason and Annie Mae Howell, who had a home and land-clearing business on the property for many years.
The home was demolished over the weekend, leaving vacant land.
“To me, it will always be grandma and grandpa’s home,” said the Howells’ granddaughter, Molly Buffington.
The family was happy that the land ended up in the festival’s hands, she added. A number of family members were on hand for the dedication and unveiling of a sign naming the parking lot in the Howells memory.
Festival General Manager Paul Davis said the land, across from Tomlin Middle School, gives the event parking it desperately needs.
Patrick Ferguson, a grandson of the Howells, said as youngsters, he and his cousins would park cars on his grandparents property to get enough money to go to the festival.
A lack of nearby parking was a factor in a huge traffic jam the last weekend of the 2013 festival, Davis said. The new unpaved lot, which will be illuminated with lighting, is a stone’s throw from the festival grounds.
Volunteers from the Plant City Church of God will park cars there during the festival. The parking fees the church collects will go to help missions and for youngsters to attend camp, youth pastor Scotty Campbell said.
The festival is Feb. 27 to March 9.