Nothing beats a big bowl of ice cream in our blazing Florida sun. Ok so that’s not true… An entire festival devoted to ice cream is much better than just a single bowl! That is exactly what we found with the Florida Ice Cream Festival! Just completing their Sophomore year, we think that this annual event dedicated to our favorite dairy treat is here to stay but has room for improvement.
Over the past two years the Florida Ice Cream Festival has grown from humble roots of being a one day event at a local ball park to a two day event at a major event venue! This year continued great traditions including a competitive ice cream eating championship, and live entertainment. In addition to continuing a successful event they also added an extra day to the festival and promoted a Christian oriented family day with some great local Christian bands. Not surprisingly, this was on a Sunday.
In addition to tickets provided for a great ticket giveaway, we also had the opportunity to send one of our reviewer families to the Florida Ice Cream Festival! They were able to provide great frugal tips for next year as well as some feedback for the event promoters.
Arriving early on Saturday our reviewers noticed that at first there weren’t many other visitors at the festival. We suppose that is because ice cream is really better suited to an afternoon treat instead of a breakfast item. As they day went on though, the festival grounds filled in nicely. In addition to finding ice cream vendors throughout the festival, their kiddos also got to enjoy some carnival rides and community booths.
The carnival ride prices were about what you would expect at a local county fair. There were two options. You could pay per ride at $3 – $5 per rider, or you could purchase a wristband. I’m sure the intention was to drive wristband sales, as they were $15 each. So if your kids rode at least 4 rides on average, it would be worthwhile. They also had bounce houses which were not included in the general admission charge. Wristbands for the bounce houses were $8 each which again is about on par with other events. We’re not huge fans of general admission then, having to pay a la carte for additional activities, but this is quickly becoming the norm at most festivals as are trying to reduce their overhead.
There was of course ice cream at the Florida Ice Cream Festival as well! We are told that only one booth was supplying samples which was Publix. I happen to love their ice cream anyway and usually purchase their Publix premium brand over the competition. It’s a shame that more samples weren’t available. Other food was of course available, but if your going to the Florida Ice Cream Festival what other food would you want? All kidding aside, our reviewer family actually didn’t eat at the festival, but instead had a nice breakfast and later had a picnic lunch after their visit. Surprisingly, the biggest hit of the Florida Ice Cream Festival wasn’t the ice cream! Our reviewer’s little ones actually really enjoyed the snow cones! They were very reasonably priced at $2 each, which I’m sure made them a huge financial success considering the other for prices. The food and drink prices again were what you would expect to pay at a local county fair, but some visitors were disappointed with the pricing structure. Especially after also paying a $5 parking fee and an admission charge.
One of the most frustrating things of the Florida Ice Cream Festival was their money exchange system. None of the vendors accepted cash, but instead visitors purchased festival dollars which were the accepted currency of the festival. Unfortunately they were only available in $20 increments, and no refunds were given. This proved frustrating and very expensive for one of our ticket winners.
I have always been a “glass if half full” kind of guy, and the entertainment I’m told was really good. Both days there was a constant stream of local musical talent that kept the Florida Ice Cream Festival hopping! There were also lots of community centered organizations that were participating as well. In particular the local Sheriff’s department was on site with a few of their tactical vehicles which were real big hits with our reviewing family!
So we have reached a cross roads here.. Of the two families that we followed up with, one reports that they wouldn’t return next year, and another mentioned they may return but hope for some improvements. As a full disclaimer here, the Florida Ice Cream Festival were kind enough to supply not only the admission for our reviewing family, but the winners of our ticket giveaway. Now with that being said we do have a commitment to be truthful to our readers. We think that the Florida Ice Cream Festival has room for great improvement next year. The event promoters may wish to consider a different admission ticket price to bundle in the cost of parking. If they are able to do away with the proprietary festival bucks, it would be a better family value, as they would just pay for what they want without leaving with expensive “dollar” souvenirs. We believe the ride prices are about spot on, and the wrist bands were a great feature that not all events offer. We would however, like to see the bounce house charges either drastically reduced or included with general admission. After all, how long can one kids really stay in a bounce house anyway?
Don’t get us wrong, we firmly believe that no day with your family is a bad day. Even if events aren’t quite what you were expecting, you should try to really see the positives in everything. We sincerely hope the event promoters take some of the feedback provided and make next year’s event even better. This is a great way to get the local Lakeland community together, and personally believe this event has great potential. We look forward to giving them a second chance next year.
Florida Ice Cream Festival Details:
|Address:||4175 Medulla Rd. Lakeland Fl 33811|
|Estimated Cost For A Family of 4:||$17 Minimum / $63
with Food & Rides