Free and cheap family fun this week
Plan your weekend. If you don't take advantage of the is great weather and hit a park or the beach, here's some other cures for spring fever:
The Chasco Fiesta is the largest, longest and oldest event in Pasco County (a place that doesn't have much history, we'll grant you). It opens this weekend with 11 straight nights of free entertainment, food, athletic contests, arts and crafts, parades, a carnival and an ongoing Native American Pow Wow and Festival at its heart. It all takes place in and around Sims Park on the banks of the Pithlachascotee River in New Port Richey.
Alexandra Nechita was hailed as a prodigy when she first began exhibiting her art at 8 years old, likened to Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall with a technical mastery far beyond her years. With appearances on national news and talk shows, the Romanian-born girl became a celebrity is now 23. Her paintings, sculptures, drawings and limited edition prints will be at Michael Murphy Gallery, 2701 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, beginning Saturday. An uncrating reception and preview is Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Nechita will appear at the gallery March 28 and 29 and will host a workshop for children ages 2 to 12 on March 28. All events are by reservation. Call toll-free 1-888-513-8385 for information.
Friday through Sunday, top skateboarders will converge on Skate Park of Tampa for the 15th annual Tampa Pro. The contest showcases the best skateboarders and attracts some of the top skaters who typically don’t enter contests, so the cool dude count is high. This has enticed some big names over the years, from skateboard icon Tony Hawk, to MTV reality star Ryan Sheckler. This year’s purse is $100,000 between the top finishers with $20,000 going to the top street course skater. Some of the riders this year include Red Bull athletes Jereme Rogers, Joey Brezinski, Zared Bassett and Nick Dompierre at SPoT, 4215 E Columbus Drive in Tampa. Tickets are $5-$15. See www.skateparkoftampa.com for a schedule.
Each Spring, St. Paul's Catholic Church in St. Petersburg pulls out the stops for one of the best neighborhood carnivals around. This year's Spring Festival kicks off Thursday with carnival rides, kid's games and crafts, bingo, dancing and music at 7 p.m. each night. Admission is free but there is a fee for rides, games and food. The carnival is from 5-10 p.m. each day through Sunday.
Your tweens will be bugging you to go to the Wild Splash show at the Ford Amphitheatre and it's a reasonably priced show considering the names on the bill. Soulja Boy (a.k.a. DeAndre Ramone Wey) and his white specs will be headlining this Saturday’s 98.7’s annual Wild Splash show at Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa. You can also see island-hopper Sean Kingston ( Beautiful Girls) and Houston rap star Slim Thug will be Still Tippin’. But the most inspired set — if not the weirdest — should be turned in by the Big Bad Wolf of rap, Busta Rhymes. The show starts at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 740-2446. Tickets are $14 to $46 plus service fees.
Take the kids to the Chalk Walk at Old Hyde Park Village, where more than two dozen artists will have you looking down as they create artwork on 10-foot sidewalk squares this weekend. Artists start drawing Thursday and continue through judging on Saturday. There will be music by the Urban Gypsies 7-9 p.m. Friday and face painting, a children's chalk drawing contest on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Tampa Equestrian Festival will feature more than 1,000 horses and some of the world's best riders competing at the 14-day event that kicks off Thursday. Some members of the U.S. Olympic Equestrian team will be on hand for the show jumping competition. Admission is free to the event at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Interstate 4 at U.S. 301 in Tampa.
Run, run as fast as you can to the free Gingerbread Boy puppet show at 3 p.m. Friday at the Temple Terrace Library, 202 Bullard Parkway, Temple Terrace. The Gingerbread Boy runs away from the farmer’s wife, the farmer and a host of animals in this free play. It's also being performed at 10 and 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library, 11211 Countryway Blvd., Tampa. All performances are free.
On Sunday, take your comic book fans to the Tampa Comic Book Convention at the Minnreg Building, 6340 126th Ave., Largo. There will be 85 tables of comics, videos, toys, action figures, anime and Star Wars memorabilia. Dress as your favorite comic book hero and enter the costume contest. It's $5 to enter and free for kids 12 and younger. Go here for more details.
Bring in a bag of groceries to America’s Second Harvest of Tampa Bay and get free tickets to Disney on Ice. The food pantry’s cupboards are bare, so a donation of 10 cans of non-perishable foods entitles each consumer to one ticket for opening night only on May 14 at 7:30 p.m., with a limit of four tickets per family. The Worlds of Fantasy show, running May 14-17 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa has tickets that start at $16 for a show populated with characters from Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, as well as the magical cast of fairies from Tinker Bell. You can make your donation Friday at the Forum box office from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Huff and puff your way through a 42-flight vertical race benefitting the American Lung Association. at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Bank of America Plaza, 101 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. $25 to enter with a $100 pledge minimum. For information call toll-free 1-800-586-4872.
No excuses -- you must get out of the house this weekend!
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Sherry Robinson
[Photos: Top left and middle left, Times files; Soulja Boy, Associated Press; Spider-Man, Sony Pictures]