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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



dragonboat.jpgUPDATE: Please note that Family Day at MOSI has been canceled. An earlier version of this post included the event

From dragon boat races to fireworks at the Bucs training camp practice to lots of back to school parties and giveaways, we have lots of free and cheap things to do as we head into the muggy thick of August.

You can broil at a free Bucs training camp practice at 2:30 p.m. Friday, or you can do this: a night practice at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. For free (parking, too). With $1 hot dogs and sodas. Pirate Ship cannon firings. And fireworks. Touchdown! But hey, there’s no penalty if you’d rather get the full training camp experience, which also has practices at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and Aug. 14. They are a good chance to get autographs, load up on merchandise and see appearances by the cheerleaders and Captain Fear, all at One Buc Place in Tampa. For more info, see

Tampa is the center of the dragon boat racing world this week hosting the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships with more than 2,000 athletes from 17 countries. Racing runs through Sunday on Seddon Channel. There’s also an expo at the Tampa Convention Center. All free.

The countdown has begun. Only a few sweet weeks of summer are left. But at least there are lots of parties, giveaways and special events coming up in the next few weeks to help ease kids back to school, like the End of Summer Bash for Teens at MOSI on Friday, the Back to School/Wellness Fest in Clearwater Saturday and the Junior League's Care Fair in St. Petersburg on Saturday. And there's more on the way next weekend, too. Look here for a roundup of all the back to school parties and giveaways. And if you need some guidance on the back-to-school sales tax holiday Aug. 12-14, check out this explainer of what's covered.

fortcannon.jpgThe historic fort at Fort De Soto Park has reopened! Time to take your kids back to climb on cannons, right, and pretend they’re in the jail cell of the old fort, which closed in October for handicap access renovations. You can walk around the old barracks and see (and climb on) the eight 12-inch mortars built in 1890 and set at a 45-degree angle to shoot a target 6 miles away. To find it, take a right at the park’s entrance near Tierra Verde in Pinellas County, and follow the signs for the fort and museum on the western tip of the island.

Tampa Bay Comic Con is a huge convention with 85 tables of comics, videos, toys, artwork, trading cards and more also brings in some special guests. Artists Bob Hall (Shadowman/West Coast Avengers), Arvell Jones (Avengers/Iron Man), Sheldon Moldoff (Batman/Green Lantern), Paul Pelletier (Exiles/Incredible Hulk) and Keith Pollard (Amazing Spider-Man/Fantastic Four) will be there. Come dressed as your favorite comic book hero or sci-fi legend for the costume contest. Entry is $5, 12 and younger free, starting at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Doubletree Hotel, 4500 W Cypress St., Tampa.

The monthly Greek-flavored street party A Night in the Islands in Tarpon Springs returns  Saturday with lots of great food, music, dancing and free lessons in tavli (Greek backgammon). Live Greek music will be playing on Dodecanese Boulevard at Riverwalk, west of Hope Street, from 4 to 6 p.m., and you can get free Greek dancing lessons. Opa!

This is the eighth year for Weedon Island Preserve’s Heart’s Breath Flute Extravaganza, a day of storytelling and indigenous flute workshops. The day opens at 1 p.m. Friday with an afternoon of flute music and shopping available for American Indian-style flutes, flute bags and other craft items. At 2:30 p.m. there will be children’s storytelling and a flute workshop. Then from 6 to 8:30 p.m., there will be a concert of creative sounds with Richard Schrei and the Teresa Arruza & Nuestra Tierra Trio. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., American Indian performers will feature their music, art and culture, plus there will be a silent auction of hand-carved flutes and crafts. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be two workshops on the basics of indigenous flute playing through demonstration and instruction. Free, no registration required, at Weedon Island Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg.

A group of young artists presents three original plays in repertoire for the Inkies Summer Repertory. Ham: A Love Story combines realism with fantasy during the space race as it tells parallel love stories between an American and a Soviet scientist and between two of the first monkeys in space (8 p.m. Friday). Vesuvius is set on the eve of his college graduation, Nick looks for comfort from one of his 3 1/2 girlfriends in this dramatic look at modern relationships (2 p.m. Saturday). This Is Our Youth: $15,000, some marijuana and the prospect of new love bring three teenagers together for this play about the transition to adulthood (7 p.m. Sunday). It runs through Aug. 21. $15, $10 students/seniors, $30 three-show pass. [email protected], 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 895-6620;

A day trip down the Weeki Wachee River in Spring Hill is a fine way to fend off the dogs days of summer - especially since the water temperature averages 72 - 74 degrees year round. Canoe and kayak rentals are offered by various vendors in the launch areas at Weeki Wachee State Park. At the park, there’s Weeki Wachee Paddling Adventures by Cape Leisure, 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. (352) 597-8484. Reservations are suggested, espeically on weekends. Be sure to arrive 15 minutes before any launch or departure time. Day trips are 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., with the last launch at noon. Single kayaks are $30; tandem kayaksand canoes are $35. Fishing and picnic items are permitted. Prohibited are Motorized boats, firearms, fireworks, alcohol, pets or plastic foam items. Rafting/tubing is not permitted on the river. It is illegal to feed or touch the wildlife.

The Dive-In Movie at the St. Pete Beach pool is the animated film Madagascar. Bring your noodles, floats and chairs. $3; drinks, snacks and glow jewelry for sale. St. Pete Beach Aquatic Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive, St. Pete Beach. (727) 363-9245. 8 p.m. Friday.

It's $5 Mondays at Jump! Zone every Monday while school is out, school-age kids get three hours of play in the 8,000-square-foot themed bounce attraction for just $5. Best Party in Town: Jump! Zone Center, 12402 Race Track Road, Tampa. (813) 925-1010. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

For the Book Nook by the Bay at the Pier on Saturday, it's shark week. In “Sharks, Sharks and Baby Sharks,” participants enjoy a crafty activity and a reading of Suzanne Tate’s book Great Sharky Shark, A Tale of a Big Hunter. Included with daily admission. $5 adults, $4 students/seniors, 6 and younger free. Pier Aquarium, 800 Second Ave. NE, Suite 2001, St. Petersburg. (727) 803-9799. 10:30 a.m.-noon Saturday.

The kids of Largo Cultural Center’s Summer Camp want to show off what they’ve learned. See Camp Rock! The Musical! their final jam based on the Disney Channel original movies Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2. $7.50, $6.50 children, $22 family four pack. Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6793. 7 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday.

Ride the miniature trains of Largo Central Railroad. Free (donations for train maintenance appreciated). Largo Central Railroad, 105 Central Park Drive, Largo. (727) 587-6775. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

At Saturday Sunsets on the Trail in Treasure Island, musicians and vendors line the beachfront trail along with street performers, music by the Tridents, waterslides and inflatables. Free. Treasure Island Beach Trail Park, 10400 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island. (727) 547-4575. 5-9 p.m. Saturday.

The Summer Reading Carnival features skill games and booths, sand art, inflatables, the Games 2U Video Game Bus, airbrush tattoos and a visit with the Chick-fil-A cow. Participants in the library’s summer reading clubs who completed their requirements will receive free carnival tickets, but everyone is welcome. Activity tickets $1 each, $8 for 10. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor. (727) 784-3332. Noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

The Dallas Bull is hosting a Teen Night at the country music club. Open to teen ages 13-17 only for this night of dancing to the latest top 40 and country tunes and $1 sodas and water all night. Admission is $10 at The Dallas Bull, 3322 U.S. 301, Tampa. (813) 987-2855. 7-10 p.m. Sunday.

At Teen Tidalwave Tuesdays teens and tweens ages 11-17 can hang with friends and enjoy swimming, snacks, games and prizes in and around the pool. $3. Highland Recreation Complex and Family Aquatic Center, 400 Highland Ave. NE, Largo. (727) 518-3016. 7-9 p.m. Tuesday. 

More than 100 skiers ages 6-60 perform a free Water Ski Show on Saturday, the theatrical water shows similar to those seen over the years in Cypress Gardens. This week’s theme is Wild West at Tower Lake, 130 Burbank Road, Oldsmar. (813) 265-9685. 6 p.m. Saturday.

To help boost confidence and self esteem in children, the Brandon Town Center mall has developed “I Am Special” times with stories, snacks and activities. This portion features story time with I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, written by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, and Bad Case of Stripes, written by David Shannon. Kids will also enjoy a healthy snack and create their own handheld mirror. Free. Brandon Westfield Town Center Mall, 459 Brandon Town Center, Brandon, (813) 661-5100; and Westfield Citrus Park, 8021 Citrus Park Town Center Mall, Tampa. (813) 926-4644. 4 p.m. today.

Bring blankets, low lawn chairs or towels to plop on Clearwater Beach and watch free movies. Friday features the G-rated animated film Gnomeo and Juliet. Saturday features the PG-13 rated film Beaches. Shows start around dusk. Free. Concessions for sale. No alcohol. Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. (727) 434-6060.

Grab one of the available beanbag chairs and get ready for a free movie viewing with face painting and balloon artists. This portion features Disney’s PG-rated animated adventure film Bolt. Viewings will be held each Tuesday and Thursday through Oct. 27. Free. Westfield Countryside Mall, 27001 U.S 19. N, Suite 2096, Clearwater. (727) 796-1070. 2 p.m. today and Tuesday.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:16pm]


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