Pasco County's largest, longest and oldest event, Chasco Fiesta, opens Thursday on a classical note and continues with daily activities and music through March 29 in and around Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey.
American Indian classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala will headline opening night at 7 p.m. Thursday in the amphitheater in Sims Park. Ayala has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Arts, National Museum for the American Indian, the Arizona State University Kerr Cultural Center and Meyer Theatre in Green Bay, Wis., among other venues. He has a master's degree in music performance from the University of Arizona and has taught at all levels.
Also performing are the Native American Dancers.
Although the original purpose of the event was to raise money for charitable, educational and civic causes, the event has also become a celebration of the area's American Indian heritage.
The centerpiece is the Native American Pow Wow & Festival, which features competitive dancing with $11,000 in prizes Thursday through March 22; Grand Entries of American Indians in full regalia at 7 p.m. March 20, 1 and 7 p.m. March 21 and 1 p.m. March 22; and arts and crafts vendors open 5 to 9 p.m. March 23, 24 and 25, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. March 26, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 27 and 28 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 29.
There will be educational programs presented during festival hours.
Chasco also has a carnival Thursday through March 29, a wide variety of food vendors, special music programs each night of the fiesta, athletic competitions, children's events, and a children's competitive pageant.
Two special events are the WellCare Chasco Fiesta Street Parade at 1 p.m. March 21, and the Progressive Air & Carrier Chasco Fiesta Boat Parade at 1 p.m. March 28.
The street parade starts at Grand Boulevard and Gulf Drive, goes north on Grand, around Orange Lake, south on Bank Street, then west on Main Street to U.S. 19.
The boat parade starts in Millers Bayou (just east of the Cotee River bridge on U.S. 19, near the Crab Shack) and floats south to Sims Park. There will be $4,500 in prizes, including a $2,500 grand prize.