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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Free and cheap things to do with the kids this week



Thank you Mr. Groundhog. It seems like the doldrums of winter are finally taking a rest. And we have lots of free and cheap excuses to get out of the house, from the Rays Fan Fest to artists having fun with lights in downtown Tampa to a kid-centered Engineering Expo, all of them free. Read on for more:

raymond.jpg Are you getting jazzed about the 2011 baseball season? Your first stop for fan fever will be the Rays Fan Fest on Saturday, running 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Players, coaches and Major League Baseball alumni will be on hand to meet fans and sign autographs. Will new stars Johnny Damon, bottom left, and Manny Ramirez, bottom right, be there? Hard to say, but usually most of the players show up. So you can decide if you want to wait for hours for their autograph or check out the clubhouse tours. (The line for the players’ locker room moves pretty fast, and the view inside is pretty cool.) You can also play in the batting cages, speed pitch, do the Wiffle Ball home run derby and buy memorabilia — such as 1- by 1-foot pieces of the FieldTurf and clubhouse carpet for $25 each. And a new bit of spice this year is lunch with manager Joe Maddon, who will serve his famous spaghetti, meatballs and pierogies. Tickets for the lunch, which will be served from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Batter’s Eye restaurant, are $30 for adults and $10 for kids 14 and under when purchased in advance through, and $40 and $15 at the event. Admission and parking for Fan Fest are free.

This can be a family outing or a great date night for Lights on Tampa, a one-night outdoor public art show, returns for its third time in six years with video collages, dance shows and large-scale film projections all devoted to light.  It runs from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday  at  Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, and other downtown Tampa locations, and it's free. For a map and more information, go to  More than an art show, Lights on Tampa has become a popular art experience, attracting thousands of people downtown to reflect on — and celebrate — public art in outdoor places. The main component will come from Spanish artist Pablo Valbuena, who is using light projected on the Poe Parking Garage to create what appears to be a huge three-dimensional space. Along the Riverwalk, new media artists have created animated videos for the city’s first portal (large canopied posts for displaying digital imagery). On the Curtis Hixon lawn, local dancers will become moving silhouettes. Organizers encourage visitors to walk around the city and view other new light features. Maps will be provided.

oobleck.jpgThe USF College of Engineering has a subversive plot: Entice kids into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by showing them how fun it is. The Engineering Expo will have hands-on activities, like a spaghetti and gum-ball structure competition, lock-picking and an oobleck pit to play in (consult your Dr. Seuss for a full description of the green goo). Popular demonstrations include a physics department show, chemistry magic show, laser light show and the Electrathon of America Race. It’s free from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the USF Tampa College of Engineering, 4202 E Fowler Ave.

For adults, the Tampa Children’s Expo will offer demonstrations, seminars, free products and samples from local and national companies. For kids, there will be bounce houses, face painting, costumed characters, games and magic shows. Guests can meet celebrity chef Tyler Florence, Food Network star and co-founder of Sprout organic baby food, at the event. Free. Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 274-8511. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

Because it’s been, what, a whole week since we had a dog costume parade, we bring you Mutt March. The dogs will be howling for the Fido Idol singing competition and strutting for the Doggie Project Runway costume contest, not to mention the Mardi Gras-themed pet parade. Plus, adoptable dogs, pet themed vendors and a food court. Starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at Highlander Park in Dunedin. Free, $3 parking. (727) 786-1330;

 If you still miss spring training at Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field, here’s a temporary fix. Thirteen games will be played there as part of an international baseball series , with  teams from South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands,  colleges  and the Rays, Phillies and Blue Jays. The first game is at noon Monday, featuring Penn State against the Seoul Nexen Heroes at the waterfront ballpark, 180 Second Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. The Rays will play the Netherlands on March 9, and the games continue through March 13. Tickets are $6, $10 reserved (regular game); $10, $13 reserved (MLB games). Season tickets are $75 for 13 games. (727) 551-3000. For more information, go to

The monthly preschoolers’ program A Little History continues with this month’s theme, Pioneer Life. The program will highlight pioneers from the 1800s who lived and worked in Florida’s rugged wilderness. Kids will play traditional Florida Cracker games, play dress-up in our Land Remembered Cracker cabin, and learn about life on the Florida frontier. Space is limited, so registration is required. $10 per child, $6 per adult. Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water St., Tampa. (813) 675-8960. 10:30-11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Remember Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop? Well, Mallory Lewis, daughter of the 1960's children’s entertainer, brings everyone’s favorite sock puppet, Lamb Chop, for several shows during the Pasco County Fair. Show is included with fair admission. $8, $5 ages 6-12, 5 and younger free; $3  Tuesdsay only. Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 SR 52, Dade City. (352) 567-6678. 5, 7 and 8:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.

Pull up a blanket to see free movies on Clearwater Beach for the Sunset Cinema at Pier 60. Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach and watch free movies. Concessions for sale. No alcohol. Shows start around dusk. Friday is The Muppet Movie (rated G), and Saturday is Mamma Mia (rated PG-13). Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060. 6 p.m. Saturday.

Need a good excuse to exercise? The Bolt Run lets you join the Tampa Bay Lightning in giving assistance to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through this 5K, 5-mile and 1-mile family fun run. But wait, there's more. All entries include commemorative Bolt Run shirt, a ticket to post-race celebratory game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, pre/post race parties, race goodie bag and refreshments. Register online. $25. Downtown Tampa, Intersecton of Twiggs and Tampa streets, Tampa. 7 a.m. Saturday.

Pull up a chair near the Pier in St. Petersburg or idle your own boat to watch the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta. The series embarks on its 2011 season in the water off  downtown St. Petersburg this weekend. More than 1,000 sailors will hit the water for three days of competitive sailboat racing, with top sailors from around the world competing against local skippers for the overall prize of a trip to the British Virgin Islands to race in the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Championship Regatta. It’s free for spectators, who can see the racing best off the Pier. Private boats are welcome to watch as well. Starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday. (727) 822-3873.

Tampa Bay Comic Con, the huge annual convention, returns to Tampa this year with some 85 tables of comics, videos, toys, Star Wars memorabilia and more from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Dress as your favorite comic book hero or sci-fi legend for a chance in the costume contest. Guests include artists Allen Bellman (Golden Age/Captain America), Frank Brunner (Doctor Strange/Red Sonja), Mike Perkins (Captain America/the Stand) and Arthur Suydam (Marvel Zombies/Batman), pro wrestler Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and actor Joel Wynkoop from The Bite and Killing Spree. It’s $5, 12 and younger free at the Doubletree Hotel, 4500 W Cypress St., Tampa.

More than 40 artists have signed on for Art on Central, a live painting event on Central Avenue’s much-buzzed-about 600 block. In addition to the art in progress, there will be sculptures, paintings, jewelry, comics and more for sale It’s Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. Free. Hint: It’s practically right across the street from the Rays Fan Fest (Page 3), so make a day of it.

Get a taset of Old Florida at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. This charming fishing village just off Bradenton’s coast holds a big seafood fest every year with entertainment, boat rides, marine life exhibits, arts, crafts and tons of fresh seafood right off the boat. It’s 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $2, 11 and younger free at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W in Cortez. See

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Thursday, February 17, 2011 8:07am]


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