All photos Eileen Calub/Catalyst.
As the warmth of spring gradually embraces Sarasota, families eagerly flock to Fruitville Grove to enjoy the fourth annual Berry Festival. Every weekend from Saturday, Mar. 7 until Sunday, Mar. 17, Sarasotans can participate in myriad fun activities suitable for young and old. Just a 20-minute drive away from campus, the Berry Festival gives students the chance to take a well-deserved reprieve from midterms, bask in the sunlight, engage with the community and savor sweet berries. Admission and parking are free to the event.
Festival-goers can survey a plethora of locally-grown fruits and vegetables at the fresh market.
“They’re all strawberries from Manatee County,” Nadia Taylor, daughter of Fruitville Grove owner Kim White, said. “We co-op with local farmers who don’t have access to a storefront.”
Attendees can enjoy berry treats and drinks, such as strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream, strawberry milkshakes and strawberry lemonade. One vendor also sold specialty Japanese-style strawberry, banana and chocolate crepes. Food trucks, like Fire Tacos, offering authentic Mexican food, and K-Nam Style, serving up Korean barbecue, appease those seeking a little more spice.
Rows of vendors showcase local businesses selling a variety of items, such as tote bags, crocheted hats, dream catchers and wooden crafts. Several vendors also sell novelty items and gifts, like goat milk soap.
Plenty of activities entertain children, including bouncy houses and a rock wall. For a small fee, festival-goers can pet, hug or hold baby animals, like friendly goats and miniature potbelly pigs. In a small clearing, families can have a photoshoot with a “magical unicorn,” a white horse adorned with flowers and a horn. At art booths, attendees can paint wooden animals or have their face painted. Terry White, who helps his wife, Kim, operate the farm, showcases three classic cars from 1929: a roadster, a pick-up truck and a roadster pick-up. Saturday and Sunday afternoons feature special events, including Easter egg hunts for children and pie-eating contests.
Taylor and her family have also facilitated the popular Pumpkin Festival for over 30 years.
“We wanted a springtime fest—I guess we couldn’t get enough of the pumpkins in October,” Taylor said, “so we started the Berry Festival to give something back to the community and have another free event for everybody to get together and enjoy the strawberries and animals.”
Fruitville Grove is located at 7410 Fruitville Rd., Sarasota.