Starting this week, visitors to Central Florida’s Visitor Information Center (CFVIC) in Davenport will have a new reason to stop by… free samples of locally sourced orange juice, in an expansion of the ongoing partnership between Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing (PCTSM) and Ridge Island Groves in Haines City. This initiative is the natural progression of the partnership with PCTSM that helped Ridge Island Groves become the official orange juice provider for the annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-in and Expo, held each April at the Lakeland Linder Airport. Ridge Island Groves has also partnered many times with PCTSM to provide free samples of their fresh squeezed O.J. to Detroit Tigers fans at Tigerfest in Detroit and internationally at the Icelandair Mid-Atlantic Tradeshow in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Polk County has a long tradition of offering free samples of fresh Florida sunshine in a cup to thirsty visitors, dating back to the 1920s when tourists were just starting to discover the sunshine state. Road side stands sprung up across central Florida, with vendors hawking the official state fruit to the first generation of tourists with the freedom to explore the USA by automobile. Free samples of orange juice were a perfect marketing ploy to get people to stop and purchase their wares. From the 1920s to the 1960s, citrus pioneer brothers, Alex and Norman Warren, operated six or seven fruit stands to support their roughly 1,000 acres of citrus groves.
One such stand could be found on the stretch of State Road 540 leading to Cypress Gardens, Florida’s very first theme park. Orange juice was the lure to get visitors to stop and purchase their produce, grown and processed near their packing house in Haines City. These stands, and others like them, morphed into to the larger Florida Citrus and Souvenir shops that sprang up across the state as Florida blossomed into a true tourist destination.
Ridge Island Groves has served free orange juice samples to their citrus stand customers for years, as has Florida’s Natural Growers Grove House, in Lake Wales. Florida’s Natural offers a variety of juice blends in their visitor center, which includes a gift shop, educational citrus displays and a movie presentation that tells the story of how their grove owners work together in a cooperative, to bring Florida orange juice from the trees in their groves to supermarkets locally, and around the world.
“Offering free samples of agricultural products may be an old tactic, but it’s still very effective,” says Justin Laferriere, Senior Visitor Services Manager at CFVIC. “It provides a tangible, tasty sample of what’s grown locally and what has mesmerized visitors for more than 100 years. Most importantly, it gives our staff an opportunity to showcase what Polk County has to offer our visitors.”
CFVIC provides vacation planning ideas for residents and their visiting family and friends, a Florida souvenir gift shop and the availability of discounted attraction tickets for many Central Florida attractions, including LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, the Disney parks, Universal Studios, Kennedy Space Center, Busch Gardens and more. The information center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week (excluding major holidays) and is located at 101 Adventure Court in Davenport (along U.S. Highway 27), a half-mile south of I-4 at Exit 55. For more information, contact Justin Laferriere at 863-420-2586.