PLANT CITY – People from all walks of life, including some celebrities, will try their hand at strawberry picking Saturday at a charity fundraiser.
Seventeen teams representing various sponsors will compete for the title of Best Harvest Crew. Wish Farms, the state’s largest strawberry grower and shipper, will host the fundraiser, the inaugural Bright House Networks Strawberry Picking Challenge.
Spectators are welcome to watch from the grandstands and the event will also include entertainment for children. The contest will be held at Futch Farms, 3536 Futch Loop, off Wiggins Road.
“This will be a very family event,” Wish Farms spokeswoman Amber Kosinsky said.
Radio Disney of Tampa Bay will lead the children’s activities, many with a strawberry theme, she said. Costume characters will be on hand for photos including Jammer, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association mascot, and Misty, the fairy that appears on Wish Farms’ logo.
The Florida Strawberry Festival will hold a drawing for tickets to its headline concerts and there will be a photo area featuring a display of antique tractors.
The teams of four people each will compete not only for who can pick fruit the fastest, but also for choosing berries that are ripe and not bruised during harvesting.
Well-known contestants scheduled to appear include television news anchors, former Major League Baseball player Fred McGriff, state Reps. Jake Raburn and Dan Raulerson and others.
Tampa Tribune food writer Jeff Houck, food blogger Isabel Laessig, grower and farm manager Philip Stanaland and Publix corporate customer service manager Micahel Saladrigas will serve as judges.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $8 for children under 12; children 3 and under are admitted free. The tickets include lunch, strawberry shortcake and a gift bag. The competition itself is limited to the teams representing the fundraiser’s corporate sponsors.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.wishfarms.com/pc. They can also be purchased at the event.
Money raised by the fundraiser goes to Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which provides child care and other services to the rural poor.
The picking challenge replaces a tennis tournament that Wish Farms held for eight years. The event last year raised more than $86,000.
The tennis tournament was largely a private event but this year’s fundraiser is designed to help the public better understand strawberry farming, Wish Farmers owner Gary Wishnatzki said.
“By bringing this event to the farm, we hope to bring awareness and education to the hard work of our farm workers, while also making it a family-friendly event,” he said.