PLANT CITY — The Florida Strawberry Festival wanted to bring in more free acts, but it couldn’t cram any more entertainment into its two show tents.
So festival officials hit on a novel idea: Set up a temporary, portable stage.
The new Paradise Grilling Systems Variety Stage will be east of the festival’s main ticket gate at 2209 W. Oak Ave. Five or six acts a day will perform there, festival General Manager Paul Davis said.
“We’re trying to keep up with the diversity of our market,” Davis said. “We want to offer all kinds of entertainment and this helps us to do that.”
Acts set to perform at the stage include husband and wife country singers Kari & Billy, gospel singer Tina L. Watson-Conley, Southern rock group Soul Circus Cowboys and others.
Hola Plant City!, annual festival performances geared for Hispanic audiences, also moves to the variety stage. This year’s Hola Plant City! will include two nights.
At 6 p.m. March 1, Baja Zero will perform at a show hosted by Don Cheto, a judge on estrellaTV’s “Tengo Talento.” At 6 p.m. March 8, the group Deztello performs in a show hosted by Anais, co-host of estrellaTV’s “Estrella Hoy.” The Castillo Kids, a mariachi band, perform both nights.
Davis said Hola Plant City! has been a popular draw because of the Plant City area’s large Hispanic population. Performances are in Spanish and English.
“When you look out over the audience, you see a lot of families — mother, father and children. It’s a popular draw,” Davis said.
The new stage will be covered but the seating will be open-air, so performances are all weather-permitting.
The festival runs Thursday through March 9.
Gates for the festival are open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. General admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger with a paying adult.
The main ticket gate is at 2009 W. Oak Ave., although tickets are sold at five other gates ringing the festival grounds.
For a complete schedule of concerts, shows and times, click here or pick up a brochure at the festival grounds.