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5 things to do in March

1 The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts will be March 2 and 3 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa. Artists — ceramic, digital, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor and wood — come from all over the country to try to win the $15,000 Raymond James Best of Show Award and an additional $59,500 in prize money. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

2 If you live here and don't know who Doc Ford is ... you have not lived the True Florida Experience. Like Tim Dorsey's Serge and Carl Hiaasen's Skink, Randy Wayne White's Dr. Marion Ford, a Sanibel Island marine biologist, is Florida personified. He and his mystic hipster sailor pal, Tomlinson, seem as real as the Gulf Coast and the islands that provide the settings for White's novels. Night Moves, the 20th Doc Ford thriller, comes out in March and White will stop in Tampa and St. Petersburg for book signings March 7. He'll be at Haslam's at 2025 Central Ave. at 2 p.m. and then across the bay at the Tampa Tribune Auditorium, 200 S Parker St., at 7 p.m. Here's just a taste of Night Moves: Doc Ford — or maybe, Tomlinson — is the target of a murder attempt by someone who wants to make it look like an accident and the liveaboards and fishing guides at Dinkin's Bay on Sanibel Island who populate White's novels are becoming increasingly nervous after a near-poisoning, a plane crash and an explosion. What their small family of friends don't know is that their secret pasts make it impossible for the two of them to go to the law for help.

3 There's a gem buried in the lineup of the second annual Gasparilla Music Festival, which will be March 9 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and Kiley Gardens Park in downtown Tampa. The Meter Men, featuring three of the four original Meters — Zigaboo Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli and George Porter Jr. — define New Orleans funk. Formed in 1965, the Meters — with frontman and vocalist Art Neville — broke up in 1977, and all of their members went on to find success elsewhere in the music business. Neville gained fame as part of the Neville Brothers; Modeliste toured with Ron Wood and Keith Richards; Nocentelli and Porter started new bands and they all became in-demand session players. The three re-formed the Meter Men in 2009. Phish keyboardist Page McConnell (inset) is special guest. Headlining the Gasparilla festival is California rock duo Best Coast. Also appearing are Black Joe Lewis & the HoneyBears, Dawes, Lord Huron, Ozmatli, the Iguanas, Applebutter Express, Ozokids, the Hip Abduction and Nervous Turkey. Tickets are $25; VIP tickets are $75.

4 Are you ready for some baseball? Squeeze one of the last drops out of the Grapefruit League schedule and watch the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Detroit Tigers in a preseason game at Tropicana Field at 1:10 p.m. March 30. All seats are general admission and cost $15 ($17 online at The Upper Level, tbt* Party Deck, Press Level and Hancock Bank Club will be closed for this event.

5 Looking for something to do on Wednesdays for the next couple months? The Pinellas County Extension office is taking its free horticulture help on the road. Spring is approaching and so are the many pesky lawn and garden problems that come along with it — in fact, the extension office at 12420 Ulmerton Road in Largo is already buzzing with questions and problems from residents. So, a second lawn and garden help desk has been set up at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE in St. Petersburg, on Wednesdays through April. The Largo office is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Weedon help desk is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

5 things to do in March 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:51am]
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