Downtown New Port Richey will kick off two weekends of special events to celebrate the holiday season tonight through Dec. 13.
Two highlights are the 10th annual Holiday River Lights Boat Parade from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and the 33rd annual Downtown New Port Richey Holiday Street Parade at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12. Entrants in both parades will be vying for prizes, trophies and bragging rights.
But those are just two of the events planned for the downtown/Sims Park/Cotee River area during the holiday season.
Today, the Progress Energy Art Gallery will hold a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. for its newest exhibition, "Up for Interpretation," a show of modern art and photography by 13 members of the gallery.
Included in the show are work by photographers Gordon Engebretson, Paula Showen and Melanie Achenbach and artists Jo Baughman, Mary Ellen Curran Bitner, John Di Sanza, Gay Yvonne, Lloyd Johnson, Patricia Edwards, Michael Chestnut, Terry Kinderman, Larry Sibley and Cori Raia.
Meanwhile, Richey Suncoast Theatre continues the musical comedy A Pasco Christmas — Reflections at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $16 for adults and $8 for students at the box office, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. Call (727) 842-6777.
Saturday's activities start at 9 a.m. with a Shop 'N Stroll and Scavenger Hunt (grand prize, $100) until 2 p.m. in the downtown area, and entertainment and art show by local students from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Recreation & Aquatic Center on Van Buren Street.
From noon to 4 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos in Cavalaire Square (just east of Grand Boulevard along Missouri Avenue). Starting at 11 a.m., City Manager Tom O'Neill and City Clerk Linda Kann will read children's stories nearby, and the Friendly KIA Trolley will cart people around town, to Sims Park, around Orange Lake to see Christmas Card Lane or to the rec center.
Following Saturday's boat parade, Greater New Port Richey Main Street's hospitality members will hold "Bar Wars" from 8 p.m. to midnight, when seven area restaurants and taverns will compete for "best decorated," "best Christmas tree," "best costumes" and "best holiday drink" honors. Those who wish to vote can buy a $1 ballot at Progress Energy Art Gallery, with proceeds going to "Pasco Kids First."
The festivities will continue Dec. 11, 12 and 13.
On Dec. 11, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at Halina's Interiors (Main Street) for photos from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. A free Christmas movie will be shown in Sims Park at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. (take lawn chairs or blankets for seating).
On Dec. 12, there will be a carnival and midway from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. adjacent to Sims Park and, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., an arts and crafts show, river boat tours aboard Miss Daisy, kayak and canoe rentals, pony rides, festival food and live music in the park itself.
At 2:30 p.m. Dec. 12, Genesis School will perform The Holidays Through the Eyes of a Child. The Bone Yard Dogs band will play from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
The lighted street parade will start at 7 p.m., followed by a concert with John Wayne Wilkinson and the Dixie Highway Band from 9 to 11 p.m. in Sims Park.
On Dec. 13, there will be breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 9 to 11 a.m. in Sims Park, the arts and crafts show, river boat rides, kayak and canoe rentals from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the carnival from noon to 9 p.m. and live entertainment on the main stage from 1 to 5 p.m.