First Day of the Strawberry Festival

One of my favorite stories is from a couple of years ago.  It happened on the first day of the Florida Strawberry Festival.  We are sponsors of the event and we had a stand set up outside of Gate 1 to sell our fresh local berries.

Before opening day, I was contacted by a reporter with the Tampa Tribune.   She wanted to do a story on us.  The piece was to be about following our strawberries from the time they were picked to the time they were sold at the Strawberry Festival.  I gladly agreed.

On opening day, she showed up at my office and I drove her out to the field where the berries were being picked.  After watching the harvest, we followed the truck back up to the cooler to observe them getting unloaded and then we watched them being taken into the pre-cooler to get cooled.

I informed her that it was going to take a little time to cool them down.  I asked her, since we were waiting, would she like to see our processing lines running berries for the freezer market.  She was excited about getting a bonus tour.

That day, we were running two different lines.  One was our company-owned line down the street and the other was at Paradise Fruit, who pack for us on a tolling basis.

The reporter was sitting across from me in the front seat of my car, when I called Andy, who was running our line, that day.  Fortunately, he was not on speaker when I called him.  I said, “Hi Andy, I have a Tampa Tribune reporter with me and I would like to bring her by to see our strawberry line running.”

Andy’s quick response was, “I wouldn’t do that right now!”  It seems that they were in the middle of an impromptu inspection from the County.  Andy explained, “We are tied up answering questions and I would prefer to give the inspector our full attention.”

I told Andy that it was fine because I had a backup plan.  That is when I uttered the now famous words.  I turned to the reporter and said, “Alright, I am going to take you to Paradise.”

She turned and looked at me bewildered.  “I have never had a man tell me that before!”

It took me a minute to stop laughing and compose myself.  “No, not that paradise,” I told her.

I was chuckling about that exchange the rest of the day.

Upon arriving home I could not wait to share the story with my wife, Therese.  I figured she would get a good laugh out of it too.  That was my second mistake.  After hearing the story, Therese’s comeback was, “Oh yeah, you have never taken me to paradise.  I want to go.”

We are headed for great things and who knows, maybe we will even make it to paradise.  Just don’t expect me to take you.

-GW