My experience pedicab driving during the 2013 Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL.

Roller coaster at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL.

Last year, I only worked one day of this event to see what it was like and it was okay. Good enough that it made me wanna return this year to work more days. There wasn’t much else significant going on in the area to work so it was this or nothing. I didn’t really have any expectations but I must say that when it was cold, and it was for the majority of days, the income was still pretty good. When it warmed up on the last weekend of the event, any expectations that were created from the previous days were shattered. This was an excellent event to work.

I didn’t work everyday because I had errands, appointments, and other things to take care of that were a priority over pedicabbing and if things continue going my way, I’ll be pedicabbing less and less. I won’t stop completely because I’m greedy, good greedy, but the seeds I’ve been planting for other projects are finally showing some fruit thanks to proper nurturing. I didn’t work the first day but I did work the second day which was a Friday and I worked alternating days from there until the last weekend where I worked both Saturday and Sunday back to back. I showed up too early on Friday March 1st. It was cold and it was a working day. Things didn’t pick up until that time when kids got out of school and people got off work.

My average per hour was very good during those after work hours and I chose to only work during that time for almost every day afterwards because I didn’t wanna waste my time. I didn’t live far so I drove home after each day. My only expenses were gas and food. Compared to staying in a hotel or taking other local accommodations, I saved money and had the pleasure of sleeping in familiar confines. Nothing beats home when you have a good and comfortable one.

Other pedicabbers chose the same Friday as I did for their first working day. The difference is that my papers were in order and theirs weren’t so they got ghost and were never seen again on any other day. It’s not a surprise that a cop suddenly asked to see those papers. No doubt a pedicabber tipped them off to check to eliminate competition. I have a pretty good idea who it was. It’s all good when they do that to someone else but sour grapes when it happens to them. It’s bullshit. As long as your shit is on point, you really have nothing to worry about so I don’t mind at all when cops or whoever check to see that I, or anyone else, has proper credentials. I actually prefer they do that on a more regular basis to weed out the riff raff.

Plain and simple, when you know you don’t have your shit straight, you take the risk of wasting your time and money showing up to work certain events. It’s happened to me in the distant past and the lesson I learned is to make all the calls and send all the emails I need to in order to have what I need to avoid any bullshit from happening when I show up for work. If you get busted, accept your shit and move on. Really simple. As stated, some pedicabbers got busted without their shit and they moved on without incident. That’s how it should be.

I would’ve thought they’d have waited for the next business day to get what they needed but they never returned. Good for me because less competition is the 2nd best competition. No competition is the 1st. At first, it appeared that there may have been too many pedicabs working the event but it was just the right amount. There were some that I’d never seen before. Almost all of us came from Orlando.

Camouflage and cowboy boots seemed to be the most popular garb amongst younger attendees. The crowd was very diverse in age and ethnicity. There were people from all over the world for the event. It’s one of the biggest ones in the country and they don’t call it the Strawberry Festival for no reason. Almost every corner on the streets had someone selling them. Speaking of streets, Plant City has the absolute WORST road conditions of any city I’ve ever been to. I understand the fair brings in a lot of people to the area for only 10 days out of 365 but that should be enough to pave the roads that are falling apart, fill in the potholes, and put in some sidewalks.

Where most cities have grass or concrete that runs alongside roads, Plant City has a lot of dirt and it was flying around. Some of it soiled my pedicab tremendously and right after I’ve been painting it, too. Not to mention the chain and gears on my bike. I spent a good amount of time after the event cleaning them. During the event, I got one flat tire on my bike and one on my pedicab. And I had some ongoing brake issues that have since been fixed. Those things definitely cost me some rides (money) but that’s life in the business. Gotta be able to get back on the road quick yet safe.

Country music is what’s booked for the fair and although Blake Shelton’s concert was sold out on the last day, Brantley Gilbert seemed to be the most popular with the ladies. He got the most buzz after his concert from what I was hearing from my passengers. There were 2 sets of concerts for the fair: a smaller act at 3:30pm and the big one at 7:30pm. Both were ticketed with Shelton’s being the most expensive since he also had an opening act and, of course, he’s a big name that can command a higher price. It was kinda like working concerts at the Amway Center except when you dropped off, you mostly stuck around to pick someone up going back to their car. People didn’t stay in the fair for long and I never gave out my business card for callbacks because it was too busy for that and not necessary. Everyone got steady rides. At least they should have.

To date, working ArtiGras in Jupiter has been the one and only multi-day event that I’ve worked where there wasn’t a shred of drama. Not from other pedicabbers, not from people, not from event organizers, and not from cops. I heard there was an incident with one of the big dogs from the fair but I wasn’t working that day. There was one major car accident that was heard but not seen and a fender bender that I witnessed in a parking lot. I didn’t encounter any drama from fair attendees. I did encounter some drama from other pedicabbers and I’ll no longer be associating with some of them because of it. For the most part, the cops were cool but as always, there’s one that has to be the asshole. He got on the case of a lot of drivers from what I was hearing and I’m the one he took it out on. Lucky me. Make that two asshole cops because another one was a straight-up racist. According to some fair attendees, I shouldn’t be surprised by that.

I try to foster an environment of cooperation and working together but with humans being humans and dumber than ever, that’s not an easy task to accomplish. I try to build bridges, not demolish them. Some people do the latter. Slowly but surely, people’s true nature comes out and some of the drivers at the fair showed theirs and I’m glad they did because I hate fake ass motherfuckers. That lets me know where they stand and I no longer have to waste my time with them. But even with the inevitable bullshit that comes with the job, I had a good time, it was a good experience, and I was surprised at how good the last weekend was.

I don’t know if it was because the fair was wrapping up and people knew to come out at that time to get the best deals on rides and prizes or because the temperature was warm. There was never any rain on any day. On Saturday March 9th, I arrived in the early afternoon (because I didn’t wanna leave home without having watched Young Justice first) and it was nonstop busy until the midway closed. On the first day that I worked, there was something called Midnight Madness where the midway stayed open until 2am and the gate where they were letting people in for that had a long line. No rides to be had from it but the line was impressive for such a cold night.

Tiger bean bag toy.The last Saturday was wall to wall people like I hadn’t seen since the Funk Fest in St. Pete last year. It was a record day. Sunday, although I arrived a little earlier, it was clear that I had missed a good rush because all of the closer parking lots were already full and people were parking further away than usual. Sunday started a bit slow for me but it picked up and turned into another record day with long lines forming at a different gate than the Midnight Madness one. Some drivers worked every single day, all day, so I know they were caking good. For me, having other priorities, for the days that I worked, particularly those last 2 days, it was fantastic. Some kid even gave me a little tiger bean bag toy so I guess I have a souvenir now.

I can only imagine what it would’ve been like working this event if the other days weren’t so cold. Saturday was my second highest average per hour ever. Who knew that a county fair could be so good? I was tempted to go inside and have some fun but my focus was on money. I was also tempted to sample some fair food but again, my focus was on making money, not spending it. The only money I “spent” was on a couple of Transformers: Wheeljack and Ripclaw from the Beast Hunters toy line.

I went to the Walmart in Plant City after one working day in search of Fall of Cybertron Blaster but found Ripclaw instead. On the last working day, I hit up another in Lakeland and found Wheeljack on sale there for 3 bucks off. I still got some toys that I wanted but not THE toy. Plenty of Soundwaves and Grimlocks on the shelves but only one store had my Blaster? C’mon. It’s my own fault. I should’ve bought it when it was in my hands. When I left the Plant City Walmart, the way back to the interstate took me through their downtown corridor. Typical small town. A church was the biggest building. It looked like a courthouse.

Downtown had flat roads like most of the area around the fairgrounds but a lot of that area leading up to the fair had a slight incline. Going to it was somewhat of a chore if you had a lot of passengers but leaving was easy because depending on the route taken, it was mostly downhill. Residents who live around the fairgrounds took advantage of the parking situation and made some green. A lot of properties around there had a lot of land. Some people I talked to said it’s the only time of year to really bring in some good extra dough so they make the best of it. I never paid a penny to park because I found a good, close free spot and I avoided the interstate exit that led directly to the fairgrounds because last year it was a traffic nightmare and this year was no different. I took a better route. Planning ahead of time is a good way to save time, money, and gas but you knew that already, didn’t you?

Will I work this event again? Hells to the yeah! That last weekend alone made it worth it. Although there was parking at every corner of the fairgrounds, we mostly stuck to working the main entrance. That’s where the majority of people were coming in. Another side had far too much traffic to navigate through and yet another was gravel instead of pavement which made it harder to ride through. Another improvement the fairgrounds could do is make the turnstile exits bigger. I saw many a stroller and wheelchair get stuck in them. Their current size is probably based on the average size of an American 15-20 years ago. We all know what average is now and they need to update accordingly. You know, to fit the strollers and wheelchairs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>