At long last, after almost a year of planning and weather-watching, the Big Day is almost here.
On Thursday, Pasco County's oldest, largest and longest festival, Chasco Fiesta, opens. It will continue through March 28 in and around Sims Park in New Port Richey.
The first day will feature the Native American Festival and Pow Wow from 5 to 10 p.m., highlighted by the Native American Night in the Park show at 7 p.m. in the Sims Park Amphitheater. That show will feature award-winning violinist Arvel Bird, known as "The Lord of the Strings," and several groups of dancers. Bird's program may include classical, new age, folk, country, Celtic, bluegrass, jazz, blues and/or tribal music.
Also on Thursday's schedule are the Chasco Carnival midway and the West Pasco Sertoma Beef Barbecue, both going from 5 to 10 p.m.
Activities resume at noon Friday with the West Pasco Sertoma Beef Barbecue and shift into high gear at 5 p.m., when the Native American Festival and Pow Wow, food vendors and the carnival also open.
In the amphitheater on Friday is Contemporary Christian Family Night, with headliner Jeremy Camp ($15 and $25 in advance; $20 and $30 day of show).
Other highlights this week:
1 p.m. Saturday: Chasco Fiesta Street Parade;
5 p.m. Sunday: Announcement of winners of the $14,000 in prize money in the Native American dance competition;
6 p.m. Monday: Bluegrass concert;
6 p.m. Tuesday: Latin Night concert;
6 p.m. March 24: Dancing Under the Stars concert and dance contest;
6 p.m. March 25: Rhythm and Bluesmasters with John Lee Hooker Jr. ($5);
6 p.m. March 26: True Oldies with Legends of Doo Wop and Joey Dee;
1 p.m. March 27: Chasco Fiesta Boat Parade from Millers Bayou to Sims Park;
6 p.m. March 27: Chasco Country Concert, with Luke Bryan and Love & Theft ($15 and $25 in advance; $20 and $30 day of show);
The carnival midway 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.
The Native American Festival will be open 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
For a full schedule of events, see the special Chasco Fiesta booklet inside today's Pasco, Hernando and North Pinellas editions of the Times.