Anthony Blasko captures the frivolity of the annual Florida Strawberry Pageant
The annual Florida Strawberry Festival dates back to 1930, and was originally introduced as a way of celebrating the success of the state’s yearly harvest. New York-based photographer Anthony Blasko has been attending the festival, which takes place in the aptly named Plant City, since 2013, and has made a habit over the years of photographing the other attendees.
These images are collected in Blasko’s new photo book Florida Strawberries, which sees the photographer explore the culture of the festival and contemplate its importance in a time where the local community is gradually growing distant from its agricultural roots.
All images: courtesy Anthony Blasko and Stanley/Barker
The photographs show the events, contests and entertainment that make up the 11-day festival, and capture the expressive faces of those in attendance. Shot mainly at dusk, many of the subjects are bathed in a late-evening glow, and the surroundings, which can often appear garish and jarring, take on a soft quality, evoking feelings of nostalgia against the washed-out blue of the sky.
Many of the country’s fairground traditions are on display in the book, including corn dogs, amusement rides, and carnival games. Aside from the contemporary fashion and the odd phone here and there, the photographs’ contents feel ageless, and – without context – some would be exceedingly difficult to place in time.
According to Blasko, this forms part of the festival’s appeal, and is one of the things that keeps him coming back year after year: “Local fairs and carnivals have a long history in America. Even as we lose our connection to our agricultural past, there is something timeless about gathering at the fair.”
The cover of the book captures some of the spirit of the event, with the front emblazoned with a bright strawberry painting created by artist Shaun Morris. The book also comes presented in a fast food-style paper wrap reminiscent of burger and hot dog packaging.