NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's oldest, largest and longest annual event, Chasco Fiesta, opens Thursday and continues through March 28 with daily live entertainment, participatory activities, special events and a wide variety of foods.
The centerpiece of the event is the Native American Pow Wow & Festival along the banks of the Pithlachascotee River, which opens the fiesta at 7 p.m. Thursday with Native American singing and dancing on the amphitheater stage and continues daily with a tribal dance competition, instructional demonstrations, educational wildlife displays and American Indian artists, crafts makers and vendors.
Two highlights of Chasco: The Chasco Fiesta Street Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday and the Chasco Fiesta Boat Parade at 1 p.m. March 28.
The street parade (sorry, no thrown beads this year) starts at Grand Boulevard and Gulf Drive, goes north on Grand around Orange Lake, south on Bank Street and east on Main Street to U.S. 19.
The boat parade starts in Millers Bayou, just east of the U.S. 19 bridge, and floats south to Sims Park.
Other Chasco favorites, which happen daily, are the carnival, food booths and evening entertainment.
The first weekend also features the Lighthouse Coronation Ball on Friday, when the king and queen of Chasco are crowned; the Chasco Flea Market, Arts, Crafts & Antiques Sale from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; the Junior Service League Children's Village from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; the 1-mile foot race before Saturday's parade (register at 10 a.m. at Schwettman Education Center); kayak and canoe rentals at the Sims Park boat dock (both weekends); and a car, truck and bike show from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Special food events include the West Pasco Sertoma Beef BBQ from Thursday through Sunday in Sims Park, the Cotee River Lions Club breakfasts from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and numerous fundraising food booths around the walkway in Sims Park.
In addition to the boat parade, the second weekend, March 27-29, features the West Pasco Sertoma chicken barbecue and a reprise of the Cotee River Lions Club breakfast, kayak races at 9 a.m. March 28, non-competitive bike and run/walk tours and competitive foot races at J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park that same day, and the Chasco Wine & Art Festival around Orange Lake from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 28.
Chasco also has a softball tournament and golf tournament during the second weekend.