The Florida Strawberry Festival, which this year will be headlined by country acts Reba McEntire and Big & Rich, as well as R&B sensation Babyface, welcomes you and your gun. But just don’t try to buy a beer there.
As the Tampa Bay Times reports, Florida’s gun laws — arguably some of the most freewheeling in the country — have come into the spotlight lately in light of the Parkland school shooting, which left 17 people dead. And the annual Plant City festival, which highlights Florida’s history as a producer of strawberries, will this March be the scene of just how freewheeling those guns are.
Long story short, the organizers of the festival do not ban firearms on the grounds in keeping with Florida’s gun laws. That means that, although you can’t buy a beer on the festival grounds, you can sit in the front row of the Reba McEntire concert with a gun on your person, concealed or otherwise. You can even pose for a picture with the Strawberry Queen, proudly showing off your favorite weapon.
Organizers don’t care, as long as you have your firearms in the proper place and are carrying the proper documentation, says Cpl. Larry McKinnon of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which provides off-duty security officers to help police the event.
“If a gun is found through any type of security check, we only verify that they have a right to carry it or not.”
???? @FLStrawberryFst STARTS TOMORROW!
????Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s big event!https://t.co/FHFZfQgWPL
— Laura A. Harris (@LauraHarrisWFTS) February 28, 2018
For what it’s worth, Festival president Paul Davis isn’t asking you to bring your gun to the Festival. He’s just not asking you not to, either.
“We do not encourage you to bring your weapon on grounds. But if you have a legal right to do it, then you can do it.”
It also bears noting that, as of this writing, the Strawberry Festival’s gun policy isn’t featured prominently on its website or its promotional materials. And in fact, says Times writer Jay Cridlin, the Festival’s gun policy is only really known in the festival and carnival industry.
The Festivals gun policies create a problem for Hillsborough County Public Schools. Several schools in the district provide parking for attendees, with the schools getting a cut of the money. The problem, however, is that bringing a gun onto school property is against the law, which means that anyone who parks there carrying a gun, even if to just walk to the shuttle bus, is committing a crime.
District spokesman Grayson Kamm says that signs will be posted at school parking lots reminding attendees that, if they’re bringing a gun to the Strawberry Festival, they’ll have to park elsewhere.