The Suncoast Chapter serves Hillsborough County, reaching from Tampa Bay north to Lutz, south to Ruskin, and east to Plant City, site of the 32nd annual Florida Native Plant conference. With so many places to choose from, some may wonder, “why Plant City? Is it the name?" If you only know Plant City as a blur south of the Interstate, you are not alone. After whizzing by it countless times, I finally slowed down to see what Plant City had to offer; it was truly a worthwhile decision. Here are some of the reasons why...
Plant City sits on I-4 between Lakeland and Tampa, and has about 35,000 area residents. Although it certainly is on the road to well-known tourist attractions, it is equally near diverse natural areas like the Green Swamp, Hillsborough River basin and Tampa Bay, Alafia River, Circle B Bar Preserve and the Lake Wales Ridge. We hope that everyone plans to visit the town’s natural surroundings on field trips and side trips while you are in the area (for a rundown on the field trips, see this blog post). High and dry or wet and wading, there’s a preserve or park that’s perfect for you in easy driving distance.
Plant City's slogan, Embracing the Future while
Preserving the Past, is reflected in its modern City Hall.
Our conference will be held on the Plant City campus of the Hillsborough Community College just down the road from our hotels. I must say the John R. Trinkle Center was another fabulous surprise; it is the perfect space for our conference—light, airy, great parking, a oak-shaded courtyard for the plant vendors and all the high tech gadgetry we need to hold a great conference. I’ve been to quite a few FNPS conferences, and this is among the best settings we’ve had. We're extremely grateful to the University of Florida IFAS, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center-Plant City for sponsoring our use of this facility.
|Although it has changed in 100 years, Plant City holds|
on to much of the character so evident in its heyday
Plant City, the Old and the New
Like any small town, there are families and businesses who have been part of the community for generations. The town retains much of its early character, with historic commercial and residential districts.
|The Plant City Courier celebrates Plant City as the|
state's largest inland shipping point, highlighting its
role as the hub of agriculture.
The annual Strawberry Festival in March soon became a Florida tradition which continues to this day, with its county fair attractions and famous country stars. (Strawberry lovers: Although strawberry season ends in early April, you can get a strawberry milkshake at Parkesdale Farm Market on Hwy. 92 west of town year round.)
|The Strawberry Festival has been a spring destination|
in Florida for years, as well as a setting for forced family
fun! Image from the Florida Memory Collection, State of
Florida Archives, Division of Library and Information
Janet Bowers, Suncoast Chapter, nominates the downtown Corner Store restaurant as her favorite place in Plant City. The Corner Store has unique sandwiches, wraps and salads made from organic sources, combined with a very friendly atmosphere. (They will be bringing us our conference lunches, by the way!)
|The Suncoast Chapter participated in the local|
Gardenfest last year. Gardening is a popular hobby
among Plant City residents.
|Evelyn Madonia is the face of the Red Rose Inn. She used|
to work for her family's tomato business, but in recent
years she has been responsible for bringing glamour
back to the land of the strawberry.
On behalf of the Suncoast and Hernando Chapters of FNPS, we look forward to welcoming you to our region in May, and sharing what we are trying to protect here in the Natural Heart of Florida. Get ready by visiting http://www.iloveplantcity.com/
Edited and formatted by Laurie Sheldon