Free and cheap family fun this week
Time to shake off those winter blues without melting your credit card? We have you covered this week.
Take the family to the Arts Center open house in downtown St. Petersburg, where kids can create some art of their own and it's free. From 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, kids can make puppets, have fun with stamps and stencils and spin mud into beautiful shapes with clay artist Doris Conner. There will be a performance by the Soulful Arts Dance Academy at 1:30 and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts Steel Band at 3 p.m. The Arts Center is at 719 Central Ave.
Channel the Flintstones as the Tampa Bay Fossil Club displays fossils and artifacts from Florida’s prehistoric people, as well as gems and minerals at FossilFest. You can even learn how to go Jurassic yourself at programs on how to hunt for fossils and how to preserve them. There will be fossil vendors and your little cavemen can dig in a sand “fossil pit” then learn about what they’ve found. It runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Special Events Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Interstate 4 at U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Admission is $5, 12 and younger free. Go here for details.
Railroad fans should love the Train Robbery Re-enactment, a train ride adventure of the Hole-in-the-Head Gang trying to steal the payroll strongbox of gold from the U.S. Marshals and the Pinkerton Agents. Shows are 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E (behind post office), Parrish. Tickets are $16, $12 ages 3-11. For information, call toll-free 1-877-869-0800.
Tampa Reptile Mania and Exotic Expo will have sales of reptiles, exotics, cages and supplies. Also, seminars by animal handlers. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Entertainment Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Interstate 4 at U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Cost is $8; ages 5 and younger free. Call (813) 621-7821.
The scenic Linda Pederson Park at Jenkins Creek in Weeki Wachee will be awash with swamp creatures, live entertainment, craft booths and food to raise money for local civic clubs this weekend at the WeekiWachee Swamp Festival. Dress up for the swamp monster costume contest at 10 a.m. Saturday. It runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 6400 Shoal Line Boulevard (County Road 597) in Weeki Wachee. Admission is $2, children 11 and younger free.
See how the Tampa Bay Balloon Jammers twist balloons into outrageous masks, characters, animals and more. The free exhibition is from 1:30-4 p.m. Sunday at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin. Call (727) 298-3322 for more information.
The Safety Harbor Seafood Festival will have seafood specialties and other food for purchase; live rock, acoustic, island, reggae and other music; arts and crafts and a family fun area. The festival is from noon-10 p.m. Satuday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday at the Safety Harbor Marina, 110 Veterans Memorial Lane, Safety Harbor. Admission is free. Call (727) 724-1572 for information.
Families can do as many 1/4-mile laps of the park as they want in one hour in the free Human Rights Walkathon. After the walk, speakers will discuss human rights topics such as human trafficking, discrimination, religion and education. There will be hands-on educational and craft activities for children and food vendors. It's from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at North Straub Park, Fifth Avenue NE and Bayshore Drive, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 657-7026.
The Spring Health Fair for Pets and People will have free pet dental screenings, owner blood pressure screenings, K-9 unit demonstrations, grooming and training tips, food and more. Visit from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the Cypress Creek Animal Hospital, 25227 Wesley Chapel Blvd., Lutz. Call (813) 949-3045.
The Hop, Skip & Jump Kid-athon features fitness fun for ages 3-10. Try to hop, skip or jump for a winner ribbon. The event is 9:30 a.m.-noon Saturday at the St. Petersburg Woman’s Club, 40 Snell Isle Blvd. NE, St. Petersburg. Cost is $2 per event or $5 for all. Call (727) 525-2914.
Get a team of six to 10 friends together for a Dodgeball Tournament. Hang out on the sand at Crabby Bill's to test your dodgeball skills. Each team will whip balls at opponents in at least three matches and get a free pitcher of beer. This event is the first of the 2009 series of dodgeball tournaments. It's 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Crabby Bill’s, 7700 Courtney Campbell Parkway, Tampa. Entry is $100/team, spectators free. Call toll-free 1-877-820-2582. tampabayclubsport.com.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne
[Photos: Top right and bottom right photos -- Times files; middle photo -- Weeki Wachee Swamp Festival Web site]