Free and cheap Tampa Bay area family events
It's only a matter of weeks until schools out and the really hot weather arrives. Here's some activities that won't heat up your wallet:
Don’t be surprised this Saturday if you see ferocious boats skimming the waters around downtown Tampa. The sixth annual Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races are paddling into town. More than 60 teams, including paddlers from across the nation, will vie to become Tampa’s top dragon boat team. The race occurs in Garrison Channel, and is held concurrently with Asia Fest, a celebration of Asian cultures. The races are 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St., Tampa. Asia Fest is 10:30 a.m. to midnight at the St. Pete Times Forum. Both events are free for spectators. You can check out more info on the boats here and the fest here.
Grab a blanket and enjoy a free concert of music from the tail fin era of rock. The Clearwater Fun 'N Sun Concert on Friday starts at 5 p.m. featuring Tommy James and the Shondells (Mony, Mony), Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone, and disco queen Thelma Houston (Don't Leave Me This Way). Or check out Sunday's show at noon featuring Craig Morgan, Jason Aldean, Heidi Newfield, Chris Young, Love and Theft, the Warren Brothers, Gloriana, Trailer Choir, Justin Moore, Carter Twins and Suite Caroline. Both are at Coachman Park, 301 Drew Street, Clearwater. Free, but $20 for reserved seats. (727) 562-4800. As the Times's Soundcheck music scout Carole Giambalvo notes: "Jason Aldean gives contemporary country a firm slap to the rear with AC/DC–riffed stomper (and ringtone smash) She’s Country. Don’t miss Belleair singer-songwriter Suite Caroline, who at age 11 has already earned a comparison to Taylor Swift by Nashville producer Fred Mollin (Hannah Montana).
Get out your floppy hat and your silver mint julep glasses to toast the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the big horse race at Churchill Downs. Our kids love watching the race and admission is cheap if you want to go to one of the local race tracks to watch. You can watch the ponies and sip the delicious bourbon and mint concoction at Derby Day parties around town. At Tampa Bay Downs, 11225 Race Track Road in Tampa, there will be 13 races starting at noon, including the $75,000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic, before the jumbo screen shows the Derby at 6 p.m. Admission is $2. Over at Derby Lane, the ponies may be greyhounds, but the Derby party is free. And at Billy’s Stone Crab in Tierra Verde there will be a hat contest, live music and a $5 dead mullet toss contest. Admission is free to the party which runs from 1 to 10 p.m.
Better than nagging, the Kids' Fit Fest aims to remind kids to eat smart and play hard with the help of games, live entertainment and a kid’s fitness challenge. First 150 kids completing the challenge get a Heart of Largo lunch box stuffed with goodies. It’s free Saturday at Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. While you're at the park, you can ride the miniature train for free this weekend. Local non-profit groups sell refreshments on site to raise money for worthy causes. Get your train rides from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Largo Central Railroad, 150 Highland Ave. SE, Largo. While it is free, donations for train maintenance are appreciated. (727) 587-6740 ext. 5014. lcrailroad.com.
- Laughter Yoga: Reduce stress, relieve depression, strengthen the immune system and more at this session on the beach adjacent to Guppy’s. Laughter Yoga consists of sustained/hearty laughter, mild stretching, clapping, chanting, laughter meditation and much more. Have a laugh at the free event at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Guppy’s on the Beach, 1701 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach.
- World Laughter Day Celebration: Promotes health through music and laughter using contagious laughter exercises, fun drumming, best laugh contest and more. The free event is from 6:30-8 p.m. Sunday at Archibald Memorial Park, 15100 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach.
If your kid's a wrestling fan and bugging you for a pet, you can stranglehold two birds with one stone at the Meet the Wrestler and Pet Adoptions on Sunday at the Citrus Plaza Petsmart. Take the kids to pick out a new pet (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) and get autographs from two-time NWA Heavyweight Champion World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Christian Cage (noon-2 p.m.). There will also be refreshments and raffles and it benefits the St. Francis Society Animal Rescue. Check it out from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at PetsMart, 12835 Citrus Plaza Drive, Tampa. Donations for autographs appreciated; cat adoptions $60; dog adoptions vary.
If you're a parent who wants your kids to be prepared for potentially dangerous situations, then you should carefully go to Kids Safety Day. Meet local law enforcement officers, touch a fire truck, kids crafts, bike and skate safety tips, live music and other kid-friendly activities. Join the free fun from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday at the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center, 1950 Virginia Ave., Clearwater.
Join Aquarium Education Program experts and compare the quality of tap water from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and various bands of bottled water at the FISH-ful Saturday event from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Pier Aquarium, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. This is an early National Drinking Water Week event. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 seniors and students ages 7 and older, 6 and younger free.
Finally, Barefoot Puppets presents Lonesome George, the story of a lonely turtle and shares an important lesson about humanity’s impact on the environment. The show, which costs $6, is at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tampa Theatre, 711 N Franklin St., Tampa.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne and Sherry Robinson
[Photos: Dragon boats, horses and bottled water, Times files; Queen Elizabeth, Associated Press]