Willie Nelson sets Plant City ablaze with Florida Strawberry Festival gig

Willie Nelson at the Florida Strawberry Festival on Friday, March 3rd, 2023. WMNF News photo courtesy of David Grillo.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee, Willie Nelson, is on the road again—and this time, he brought his iconic dreads to Plant City’s Florida Strawberry Festival.

The patron saint of country music must love strawberries—or blistering carnival rides. The former Red Headed Stranger served as one of the festival’s mainstage headliners on Friday for the third time in the last six years. And in the words of Rob Thomas, it was a hot one.

At 3pm, Willie took the stage, sporting his illustrious guitar, Trigger, and a straw cowboy hat. But it didn’t take too long for him to get comfortable, quickly ditching the hat for a self-branded bandanna. What followed though was nothing short of miraculous.

The 89-year-old wailed through a 23 song set of hits (and some that will be), and traded solos between his son, Micah (aka Particle Kid), and longtime “family” member, Mickey Raphael. After stumbling through the beginnings of two Harlan Howard covers though, Willie forgot the lyrics.

“I need the words,” he said to someone offstage before abandoning them in favor of a medley of classics he wrote for other artists: “Crazy,” “Night Life,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.” It was a rare moment of vulnerability for the artist, who celebrates his 90th birthday next month.

But that’s not to say that his performance wasn’t anything less than stellar. Every syllable and strum sounded as pure as it did back in his heyday, when he was trading licks with Waylon and the Highwaymen. There’s a reason why he’s apart of the small class of country acts to be nominated to the Rock Hall. He is a living legend.

The Florida Strawberry Festival runs through Sunday, March 12th, with live entertainment each day. According to a press release from the fest, Lynyrd Skynyrd will still perform Sunday night, despite the passing of founding member, Gary Rossington, yesterday. For more information, visit www.flstrawberryfestival.com.

You may also like

Florida House Minority Leader outlines goals prior to next year’s legislative session

Listen:   This is the last committee week before the...

Redefining Death: Organ Donation and Ethics with Dr. Fred Harvey

Dr. Fred Harvey hosts the Healthy Steps radio show, a...

railroad tracks train
Brightline says it is “making tremendous strides” toward Orlando-to-Tampa passenger rail service

Backers say rail service can help reduce vehicles on Central...

1968: The Fire of Ideas illuminates social movements at Art Basel Miami 2023

It has been said that art should disturb the comfortable...

Ways to listen

WMNF is listener-supported. That means we don't advertise like a commercial station, and we're not part of a university.

Ways to support

WMNF volunteers have fun providing a variety of needed services to keep your community radio station alive and kickin'.

Follow us on Instagram