Zephyrhills Founders' Day lines up parade and more

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Not all heroes — super or otherwise — wear uniforms, but it sure makes it easier to identify them. On Saturday, though, community heroes of all kinds will flood the streets of Zephyrhills when the 102nd Founders' Day celebration's main event kicks off.

The theme of this year's parade is "Unsung Heroes of Zephyrhills: Past & Present," but capes aren't necessary. Dedication to Zephyrhills and the community, however, is a requirement.

Main Street Zephyrhills Inc., which organizes the Founders' Day events, asked community members to identify people who often quietly do amazing things without the need for recognition.

"The theme was kind of inspired by last year's grand marshal Wade Thomas," said Gina Granger, executive director of Main Street Zephyrhills. "He's one of those folks who does so much good in the community."

Thomas, owner of the Thomas and Son Inc. car dealership, among other things started the Thomas Promise, an organization dedicated to helping children in need in Zephyrhills and beyond.

It's people like him, Granger said, who will be honored in this year's parade, which is expected to be jam-packed with scores of floats, decked-out vehicles, enthusiastic marchers, and, naturally, local marching bands.

Bob Perkins is one of those homespun heroes. While Zephyrhills is Perkins' seasonal home, his family has found sunny refuge here from the northern winters of Wisconsin since the 1920s. And he's sort of a big deal around these parts, where shuffleboard is much more than an idle pastime. Perkins purchased the home of the Tourist Club and its shuffleboard courts on Eighth Street when the club found itself in financial trouble, saving the courts from closure. Last year, he signed the property over to the Zephyrhills Shuffleboard Club. That's why Baker Acres RV Resorts residents chose him for their hero, said John Toolin, also a seasonal resident of the park.

Goin' Postal Franchise Corp., which is based in Zephyrhills, will honor another sport: professional football, both the National Football League and Independent Women's Football League. Their float will be a nod to Zephyrhills High graduates Ryan Pickett, defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, and Andra Douglas, owner and former player of the New York Sharks, a women's tackle football team. Douglas will be aboard the float, as well as players, parents and coaching staff from Zephyrhills High football and the Zephyrhills Police Athletic League.

West Zephyrhills Elementary School's float honors their own, including principal Emily Keene, who is retiring after 30 years in the Pasco County School District.

Southern Charm RV Resort's residents plan a red, white and blue float that will say thank you to police officers, firefighters, clergy, parents and more. "They're all unsung heroes," said Loretta Jackson, Southern Charm float coordinator.

The parade, of course, is just one of the Founders' Day events. Most of the fun begins along Fifth Avenue at 9 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m.

"This is one of those events that makes you proud to live in Zephyrhills, in Small Town, U.S.A.," Granger said.

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