Free and cheap family fun this week
Red alert! The Florida Strawberry Festival is off and running and goes through March 8 in Plant City with some of country music’s biggest acts (Taylor Swift -- her concert is sold out but there's still hope for free tix; Kellie Pickler and Jessica Simpson), a midway and of course strawberries. See the festival Web site for a schedule and tickets.
It's spring training time. Yep, the boys are back in town, but the Rays are about two hours away at their new spring training site in Port Charlotte. But you can see a World Series rematch when the Rays play the Phillies Saturday in Clearwater. Go here to find a spring training schedule or see the Rays' new digs.
The family friendly Friday night shuffleboard scene in downtown St. Petersburg goes Slumdog on us this week with a special India Night. This was a popular event last year and it returns with music, dance, food, yoga and crafts from Bollywood thanks to SPIFFS and the India Culture and Arts Society. The best part is the shuffleboard courts on Mirror Lake Drive are always free Friday nights from 7 to 11 p.m. so pack a cooler with snacks and shuffle over to 559 Mirror Lake Drive N.
The Ybor City Fiesta Day, the free annual celebration of Ybor City’s ethnic heritage and culture, returns on Saturday with include an arts marketplace, children's area, ethnic foods, multicultural exhibits and entertainment. For food there will be a black bean blow out and Flan Fest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a custard smackdown with samplings in Centennial Park, 1800 E Eighth Ave. Ybor City.
Early childhood consultant Dr. Thomas Moore will teach fun songs and dances at a Sing- and Dance-Along For Kids. Children ages 3-6 must be accompanied by an adult at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa. It's $7 children, adults free. Reservations suggested. Call (813) 269-1310 or visit the center's Web site for more info.
An all-ages event celebrating Dr. Seuss will have stories, cake, make and take hats and other events from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the College Hill Branch Library, 2607 E Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., Tampa. Call (813) 273-3682 for more information on this free event.
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will give a free lecture and book signing at USF St. Petersburg on Sunday. It starts at 1 p.m. in the Campus Activities Center, at the corner of Sixth Ave S and Second Street. Doors will open at noon. Abdul-Jabbar will also attend the annual fundraising gala to benefit the Florida Holocaust Museum at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the A La Carte Pavilion, 4050 Dana Shores Drive, Tampa. $225. (727) 820-0100.
Bikes take over the car turf on Sunday. Come play in the street at Sunday’s Ciclovia event in Clearwater. Two miles of downtown streets will be closed to car traffic but opened for cycling, walking, strolling, jogging, dancing, aerobics, skipping or simply hanging out. Dunkin’ Donuts will have free samples and a donut decorating station for children. It’s all free from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Cleveland Street in Clearwater.
Sails to Rails! lets preschool children and their parents or grandparents learn about Florida history. Begins with circle time (stories, songs or finger plays). Then do activities of early Florida as you touch, explore and play through the Village. Take a sail on the new “Heritage Village Sharpie” and ride the caboose. 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N, Largo. $5, $3 children of PCHS members, two adults free per child. (727) 582-2426. pinellascounty.org/heritage.
Trying to get the little ones interested in the theater? Well there are two opportunities this weekend. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Dance presents a Royal Gala Performace of scenes from Annie, Coppelia Suites, Fractured Fairy Tales and the Wizard of Oz. A production by young people for young people. 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the James B. White Performing Arts Center, 2750 Haines Bayshore Road, Clearwater. It's not free or cheap -- tickets are $15-$26 -- but it sounds like fun. Call (813) 854-3404 for more info. On Sunday, you can check out Pinocchio during a "Family Funday” event presented by Wacky Tales Children’s Theatre. Pre-show fun by the Pizazz Song and Dance Troup. All of the “Wacky Tales” feature three adult actors performing multiple parts, with audience participation. The show is at 1 p.m. Sunday through March 8. St. Petersburg Little Theater, 4025 31st St. S, St. Petersburg. Admission is $4; free for children under age 2. (727) 536-7407.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne