Home Sweet Strawberry Home

Habitat for Humanity’s annual Strawberry Festival is a fantastic family-friendly day out, but also harnesses the power of our community to provide homes for those in need.

“Strawberry houses” in Ocala/Marion County are distinctive and rare—there are only six. So named because they’re built with funds from the Habitat Ocala Strawberry Festival, they provide a local family a home and are funded through the power of community.

Each year, sponsors, entertainers, volunteers, church groups and others come together at the Habitat Ocala Strawberry Festival to raise the needed funds—about $60,000—to build one home. This year’s festival is March 7th.

“You can’t succeed without us all working together,” says Joanne Black, development director for Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, which harnesses community resources to build affordable homes.

This year, organizers have come up with lots of fun and delicious ways to lure you out to the festivities—from all manner of strawberry treats to a chance to see The Voice’s Selkii perform live. The South African-born singer, Jess “Selkii” Yallup, wowed audiences and the judges on the NBC reality show last year with her soulful raspy sound, earning her a place on Team Blake. The Central Florida resident, who will surely cover such memorable Voice performances as Macy Gray’s “I Try” and the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” during her appearance, is also well known as a popular performer on Disney Cruise Line.

The festival also will highlight local talent, including Noah Hunton —Ocala’s own 21-year-old country singer/songwriter—as well as recent Crystal River High School graduate Presley Lawson, who will sing and play her original songs, which have been influenced by such artists as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.

Notable local race car driver Josh Hart will sign autographs and show off his dragster at the festival’s auto show, sponsored by his company, Burnyzz American Classic Horse Power. Muscle and classic cars, custom motorcycles, trucks and even tricked-out golf carts are some of the vehicles festival-goers can expect to see.

Other planned events include a pie-eating contest, a pet contest, games, rides and a BMX show.

With all that activity, Black wants to make sure you don’t forget to pick up some delicious strawberries from Plant City, which are considered to be some of the best berries in the country. You can buy flats of strawberries or visit the “Everything Strawberry” booths, which will offer all sorts of strawberry treats.

“It’s a family fun day,” Black says. “That’s what it’s all about!”

Things to Know

Date: Saturday, March 7th
Time: 9am-5pm
Place: McPherson Complex, 601 SE 25th Avenue
Admission: Free
Parking: $5
Attendees Expected: 30,000
Strawberry Flats: 1,250
Vendors: 230
Volunteers: 700
Habitat Houses built in 2019: 9

To learn more, www.habitatocala.org/strawberry-festival

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