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Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Strawberry Festival tempts with new rides, old favorites

PLANT CITY — Universal Horror, Scorpion, Power Surge, Ring of Fire. These are a few of the carnival rides that will get thrill-seekers’ adrenaline pumping at the Florida Strawberry Festival.

“We’ll have over 90 rides, so there’s a lot to choose from,” said Charles Panacek, president of Belle City Amusement, which has produced the festival’s midway for the past six years. All of the most popular rides will be back, he said, including the Giant Wheel, Rock and Roll and Himalayan.

Added to the mix this year are two new thrill rides — Moonraker and Downdraft. Built in Europe, Moonraker is a “super spectacular” ride and the only one of its kind in the United States, said Panacek. “It’s a large spinning disc ... that rises and oscillates and takes riders into the air at high speeds.”

The Downdraft, he said, “spins and raises passengers in the air and drops them back down at high rates of speed, as well.”

For younger daredevils, Belle City will debut a new Monster Truck ride that simulates a car-crushing monster truck.

“We have kiddie rides, major rides and spectacular rides, and we are about a third in each category,” said Panacek.

Belle City also will bring about 30 food vendors to the midway, serving up such traditional fare as popcorn and cotton candy, as well as more exotic concoctions.

“We have some Fried Butter, Deep-Fried Oreo Cookies and a bunch of stuff-on a-stick,” said Panacek, who admitted being partial to traditional corn dogs.

There also will be games galore — about 80 in all — with the most popular being children’s games.

It will take a crew of about 400 to handle the rides, food and games, and they are up to the job, Panacek said.

“This will be our 66th year (in business), and we have an excellent safety record; never had a fatality, never had a major incident. We are tops in the industry in terms of our safety record.”

Panacek also ranks the Florida Strawberry Festival at the top of his list of favorite festivals.

“First of all, it’s a wonderful festival, a wonderful group of people to work with,” he said. “Of all the festivals I know or participate in, the Florida Strawberry Festival is top notch.”

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