Pasco County's oldest, largest and longest festival, Chasco Fiesta, opens Thursday and continues daily through March 28 in and around Sims Park in New Port Richey.
It features live entertainment every night, a carnival, athletic contests, a flea market and arts and crafts village (March 20 and 21), special children's activities, a car, truck and bike show (March 21), record-setting barbecues, food vendors of all sorts, a huge street parade (1 p.m. March 20), a boat parade (1 p.m. March 27) and the coronation of Queen Chasco and King Pithla — all of it to raise money for 30 local nonprofit organizations.
In recent years, the heart of Chasco has become the Native American Festival, which runs all 11 days in a sprawling encampment on the banks of the Cotee River, drawing members of tribes from across North America.
A big part of the Native American Festival is the Native American Pow-Wow on March 19, 20 and 21.
The festival features American Indian dancers, history-based talks, American Indian food and several vendors selling American Indian music, clothing, art, crafts, toys, jewelry and other items.
The highlight of the powwow is the dance competition, with more than $14,000 in prize money to men, women, teens and children doing a variety of dance styles in full regalia.
There will be grand entries of dancers, vendors, musicians, drum circle members and other participants at 7 p.m. March 19; 1 and 7 p.m. March 20; and noon March 21.
The opening night show and the powwow feature performances by the award-winning violinist Arvel Bird, who is called "The Lord of the Strings." In 2007, Bird was named Artist of the Year at the Native American Music Awards and won Best Instrumental Album at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in Toronto.
The Native American Festival will be open 5 to 10 p.m. March 18 and 19; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 20; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 21; and during regular Chasco hours for the rest of the festival. Winners of all dance competitions will be announced at 5 p.m. March 21.
The carnival will be open 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays.