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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



carnival.jpgWe are up to our bloodshot eyeballs in Halloween events, but there's also lots of other free and cheap activities, from a great reading festival to expert volleyball on the beach to a USF Homecoming parade. Read on for more wallet-friendly ideas.

The Guppyween party Sunday at The Florida Aquarium is pretty good deal: Kids in costume get in for $2 and there will be candy stations set up throughout the aquarium with plenty of kid-friendly activities in between. 12 and over pay $12. It's from 4 to 8 p.m.  at the Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa.

If Guppyween isn't your style, no fear, we have TONS of Halloween events going on this weekend and next. Check here for a complete list.

volleyball.jpgBig Shot Volleyball Tournament: Watch sandy hard bodies from about 200 teams from across the country compete in the Big Shot Volleyball Tournament. This 2-on-2 beach volleyball tournament on Clearwater Beach this weekend should have a superb level of play since this is the finale for the Big Shot Volleyball Series. See the action Saturday and Sunday starting at 8 a.m. each day near Pier 60. Free.

he huge Running of the Bulls Parade kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at USF's Homecoming at Gibbons Alumni Center in Tampa, with floats hand made by students, campus groups and community organizations, decorated vehicles, USF and community dignitaries and the school's prized Herd of Thunder Marching Band. Stick around after the parade for a concert and After Party at The Meadows.

Many families just don't discuss financial matters, such as how to save up to buy high-priced items. Duh, it's boring stuff. But what if you turned it into a game? The financial literacy organization Solita's House has developed the Money Matters Game and is hosting a free family game night with prizes, food, fun and lots of competition. You can play each other or play with your family as a team against some other cash-strapped clan. It starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Solita's House, 1475 Tampa Park Plaza, Tampa. It's free but call (813) 425-4847 to reserve a spot.

The Times Festival of Reading is a day for book worms to meet more than 40 authors in person. The free event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S. The festival, in its 19th year, will feature presentations by more than 40 writers. Book lovers, Saturday’s a day dedicated to your passion at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The roster of speakers includes YA author  Tammar Stein, who will discuss her latest book, Kindred, a fantasy about an unassuming college freshman named Miriam who is paid a visit by archangel Raphael, in a twist on the conflict between good and evil. Tell your kids the festival is like going to the library and having the authors jump off the shelves to talk to you. Crime writer Ace Atkins will present his latest thriller (and first in a new series), The Ranger, set in the Mississippi hill country. Pulitzer Prize winner and Florida State University professor Robert Olen Butler’s new novel, A Small Hotel, unfolds in a New Orleans hotel room and on a Louisiana plantation. And bestselling novelist Connie May Fowler will talk about How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, set in Florida’s Panhandle. In Fighting in the Shade, Eckerd College creative writing director Sterling Watson takes an unsparing look at the realities of high school football in a small Florida town. Animal lovers will want to catch two nonfiction authors. Pulitzer Prize winner and former Times reporter Thomas French will present Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, his account of a dramatic year at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Diana Reiss, director of the dolphin research program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, will discuss her book The Dolphin in the Mirror: Exploring Dolphin Minds and Saving Dolphin Lives. Authors will be on hand to help with a range of problems, including Roy Peter Clark, always a festival favorite, presenting Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces. For the authors’ schedule, go to

The Tampa Food Truck Rally on Saturday starts at 11 a.m. at Christ Fellowship of Tampa, 300 E Sligh Ave., Tampa. After more than 3,000 people showed up for Tampa’s first food truck rally in Hyde Park recently, it’s no surprise a second one is on the way. This time hosts Tasting Tampa and web design firm 352 Media plan nearly 30 trucks serving up a variety of cuisines, music and more. Arrive early for best selections.

At the Dia de Los Muertos Fiesta today through Saturday at Dunedin's Casa Tina, you are invited to stroll through downtown Dunedin and see the traditional “Ofrendas” which are altars honoring loved ones (some tongue-in-cheek). Pick up a map at Casa Tina’s and visit all participating businesses to earn a free tequila to toast at the celebration. Tequila and maps available while supplies last. This event is part of a weekend-long celebration topped off by Fiesta in the Park Saturday, in Pioneer Park at 1 p.m.; March of the Skeletons candlelit procession is at 10 p.m.. Free admission; food and drink additional. Casa Tina Gourmet Mexican & Vegetarian, 365 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 734-9226. 4 to 7 p.m. today through Saturday.

American Stage brings on a family show, The Adventures of Stuart Little. Follow endearing mouse Stuart as he leaves home for the first time, meets fascinating characters and learns to survive in the real world. Pay what you can at the door, $15 advance. American Stage Theatre Company at Raymond James Theater, 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 823-7529. 11 a.m. Saturday.

Celebrate the Indian culture at the Florida Indian Hobbyist Homecoming Powwow with intertribal dancing, re-enactment villages, teepee competition, more than 30 vendors selling and trading, music and cuisine. $5 per person plus $2 per car. Lake Park and Dog Park, 17302 N Dale Mabry Highway, Lutz. (352) 650-9105. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Grab a bean bag chair for a free movie screening with family-friendly activities at Pop-Up Theatre including face-painting and balloon artists. Today’s portion follows the martial arts-filled adventures of Po the Panda in Kung Fu Panda. Tuesday features the 2010 PG-rated animated adventure Shrek Forever After. Free. Westfield Countryside Mall, 27001 US Highway 19 N, Suite 2096, Clearwater. (727) 796-1070. 2 p.m. today and Tuesday.

For children ages 4 to 14, this quarter-mile Turtle Hurdle closed course has more than a dozen child-friendly, yet muddy, obstacles. Post-race breakfast to follow. $15 to $25. Highlander Park, 1920 Pinehurst Road, Dunedin. (727) 812-4530. 8 a.m. Sunday.

SEe a free Water Ski Show with more than 100 skiers ages 6 to 60 perform theatrical shows similar to those seen over the years in Cypress Gardens. This week is “Pirates! Catania’s Revenge.” The show takes place in the dark with spotlights to highlight the skiers. Free. Tower Lake, 130 Burbank Road, Oldsmar. (727) 480-9365. 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Head to Heritage Village for the Fall Country Jubilee, a craft festival featuring vendors, live music, traditional craft demonstrations and historic home tours. Free (donations appreciated). Heritage Village, 11909 125th St., Largo. (727) 582-2123. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 3:18pm]


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