Music fans line up to purchase Florida Strawberry Festival Concert tickets

Florida Strawberry Festival Ticket Counter — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Image by: P. Allison

Christmas traditions for Cape Coral resident Deanna Mather go beyond making delicious cookies and putting up Christmas decorations. Last Friday at 6:30 a.m., she and her husband John arrived in Plant City to set up their tent for a six-night campout.

However, they pitched their tent in front of the Florida Strawberry Festival ticket counter rather than in a designated campground. They wanted to be sure they could secure front-row seats for some of the shows before the festival concert tickets go on sale on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 8 a.m.

“This is one of our traditions since we come up here every year,’ said Mather. This year’s campout for tickets holds extra-special meaning. She normally doesn’t arrive as early as she did but her longtime friend Melissa McCorkle wanted to be the first in line for tickets this year. McCorkle passed away in October from a brain aneurysm. “We normally don’t show up until Monday but we got here early so I could honor her wish,” said Mather.

“We all miss her,” she said as an empty chair sits near her tent to honor her memory.

Mather is here to score tickets to see Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker, Neal McCoy, The Oak Ridge Boys, and The Gatlin Brothers.

Mather wasn’t the only person in line for tickets who had a tale to share. Tammy Chancey, an agent with Team Chancey LPT Realty and a native of Plant City, was fourth in line and attempting to get tickets to watch Walker Hayes and CeCe Winans. At the same time last year, Chancey and her aunt Laurie Hill were sadly in a hospital intensive care unit. Hill passed unexpectedly, but her final letter to Chancey sent a link to Winans’ performance of her classic song “Believe For It,” along with a message about how much she cherished the song’s motivational lyrics about finding hope in Christ. “I’m going to bring her picture with me and we’ll watch the show together,” she said.

Residents of Plant City Donna Elliott and Jessica McDaniel, who have made waiting in line for tickets an annual tradition for more than ten years, were also in line. Elliott’s relatives are traveling from St. Louis to the festival. She buys tickets as Christmas presents for her grandchildren. She wants to catch Lynyrd Skynyrd and Willie Nelson. “This is my Black Friday shopping,” she joked. McDaniel said she will purchase tickets to eight of the shows but really wants to see Lynyrd Skynyrd. Her son is excited to see Chris “Ludacris” Bridges.

“People think we’re crazy but this is fun and we make friends here,” said Mather, whose tent is decked out with cozy blankets and a large blowup mattress.

Locals support the small group of loyal followers. When a truck carrying a porta potty arrived on Friday night, the gang yelled with joy. Their cell phones and other equipment are powered by an extension cord provided that is connected to an outlet. Strangers arrive with meals from nearby eateries like Chick-fil-A and Fred’s, and they talk, play games, and watch videos on their phones all day long.

In addition to musical performances, the festival offers an array of activities including rides and attractions, livestock and eating contests, food trucks, and much more!

For more on the Florida Strawberry Festival, click here.

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