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Say It Ain't So! No more free OJ or Grapefruit Juice at Florida Welcome Centers

Our family travels to Florida pretty much on average once a year.  And it is tradition - though my wife will say otherwise - for us to stop at the Florida Welcome Center on Interstate 95.  For decades, visitors on either Interstate 10, 75, or 95 entering the Sunshine State would be treated to a fee sample of Florida Orange or Grapefruit Juice.

So imagine our surprise when we stopped at the Interstate 95 Welcome Center and saw the sign below.


Budget cuts to both the Department of Citrus and Visit Florida are the reason for the removal.

The decades old tradition first began along US 17 in Yulee when the state opened their first "hospitality house" in 1949.  Since then, millions of visitors, young and old, have enjoyed their complimentary glass of juice.  A fitting welcome to the Sunshine State.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, budget issues have threatened - and at least as of February 2020 - and brought the unique show of Florida hospitality to a stop.   First, in 2015, then Governor Rick Scott vetoed money in the budget to cover the cost of the free juice.  The Florida Department of Citrus stepped in and agreed to take on the approximately $250,000 cost.

Unfortunately, budget cuts to the Department of Citrus over the last decade led to the Department's unfortunate decision to stop funding the free juice in July 2019.  Visit Florida - which operate the Welcome Centers - has also experience drastic cuts to their budget and was not able to support the funding either.

So as a result, the free orange and grapefruit juice is no more - at least until a source of funds can be obtained.

The reaction from travelers is of disappointment as for many it is considered the official start of their Florida vacation.  When I posted about this discovery in various transportation forums, the comments echoed my disappointment.  One comment from Chris Lokken and Scott Onson sums up the reaction quite well.


via GIPHY

Hopefully, a source of funding for this decades old tradition can be found.  I would hate for it to be discontinued for good.

Do you know of any other Florida Orange Juice type free-be's at rest area's/welcome centers?  For years, a rest area along US 301 in Georgia offered free Coca-Cola.  I stopped there in 2004 and Chris Allen wrote about it in 2010.  If you know of any, feel free to comment below.





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