Free and cheap family fun this week
Snowbird season is in full swing, which means we locals have a lot of good events to choose from, many of them free. Here’s this week’s cheap thrills:
It may have taken a trip to the World Series to load up the bandwagon, but all is forgiven at Saturday's Rays Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. It's free parking for free fun from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, though a $10 donation to the Rays Baseball Foundation will get you autographs from Rays players and coaches throughout the day. Season ticket holders can get their picture taken with Rays players, too. More than 20 former major leaguers will be signing autographs. And really, get there early because last season's success will probably bring out lots of the bandwagon riders.
See the American League Championship Trophy in person, let the kids play in the interactive zone, swing in a big league batting cage, test their fastball in the speed pitch booth and hit a home run in the Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby. Kids will also have the chance to run the bases and all fans can tour the Rays clubhouse. The team will also be holding National Anthem auditions. The first 50 fans to register will audition live for a chance to sing the anthem before a game at Tropicana Field this season. Audition sign-ups will be from 9 to 10 a.m. at Gate 1. Check the team's Web site for more information.
Sure the nighttime bacchanal isn't for kids but the Illuminated Knight Parade and Family Fiesta has free entertainment all day for the entire family including sports team presentations, face painting, inflatables and live entertainment from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Park, 1800 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. Free. The parade gets rolling at 7 p.m. See the Krewe's Web site for parade routes and bleacher tickets.
This is the last weekend for the Florida State Fair featuring the midway, lots of food (chocolate-dipped bacon), entertainment and animals. The fair goes through Monday. You can root for our own Tampa Bay Derby Darlins (who have fab names like Dee Bauchery and Rue Morgue) as they take on roller derby teams from around the state in the 2009 Sunshine Skate Florida Roller Derby State Championship at the fair. This is the second year for the statewide battle for bragging rights and cash prizes. But this year, it’s a two-day format to allow more games. The first round will be Sunday at SkatePlex, 5313 E Bush Blvd. in Tampa. It’s $10 to watch and it starts at 3 p.m. The semi-final and final game, as well as the loser's bracket games will be Monday at the fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Sweetbay Entertainment Hall.
The Art Spot Drop-In Program is a free event for kids that encourages them to express themselves by visiting galleries and creating projects. The event is free at the Tampa Museum of Art, 2306 N Howard Ave., Tampa. The program is held each Saturday this month and March 14-28. This week, kids will make intricate valentines from cut and collaged paper.
The baklava will surely be on the menu at the annual Greek Festival, hosted by the St. George Greek Orthodox Church. The festival has been moved, though, and is now held at Gulfview Square Mall, 9409 U.S. 19 N, Port Richey. Come for the food, music and fun. Admission is $1 each day for the festival which runs Friday through Sunday.
And as we mentioned in an earlier post, Baby Loves Disco is finally coming to the bay area. The event brings families and their kids ages 6 months to 7 years together to boogie oogie oogie at the Blue Martini Lounge at International Plaza. This one isn't free or cheap (tickets are $15 in advance for anyone who can walk; $18 for walk up; crawlers are free) but it should be fun. Go here for more details.
If you have the next Luciano Pavarotti or Beverly Sills in your home then you may want that child to attend the Opera Workshop for children at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Patel Conservatory at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa. Cost is $20 for the workshop.
Phew! That's enough to keep you hopping this weekend.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Sherry Robinson
[Photos: Times files]