LARGO — On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Liberty Lanes was hopping.
Inside the bowling alley's lounge, Connie Smith, dressed in ivory with a taupe scarf in her hair, danced in place as her band, Jazz & Connie, warmed up.
In the meeting room near the west entrance, a private function was under way with Cherish the Children Foundation of Clearwater.
Out on the lanes, a dozen kids were participating in junior league practice rounds.
Alex Ross, the owner of the business, confirmed the eclectic crowd was no accident.
"I consider Liberty Lanes a community center,'' the 30-year-old said. "Especially in the winter time, when snowbirds are down. People come in wanting to bowl, watch sports, listen to music and we've tried to provide different things for the different people.''
Kay and Steve Mugavero were playing pinochle near lane 3. In 90 minutes, their Wednesday night league, the Liberty Mixers, would take up lanes 1 through 28.
"We came here early," Kay Mugavero said. "This is a place where there's always something going on,''
Her husband chuckled.
"The music is a little, different, for a bowling alley,'' he said. "Once I start bowling, I like silence.''
Kristie Fraga, 46, has been Liberty Lanes' general manager for three years. She believes bowling alleys in the 21st century are quite different from those of yesteryear.
"Especially since the nonsmoking laws have been created, it's much more family friendly," she said. "If dad wants to come in and watch football and bowl, he feels more comfortable bringing the kids with him in this environment.''
Fraga will welcome her family to her workplace on New Year's Eve during Liberty Lanes' annual event, the Ring in the New Party.
"While I'm working, my own family will be here, as well as my sister and her family,'' she said.
Will Jazz & Connie provide the musical entertainment?
"No, we let people play their favorites on the juke box on that night, along with satellite radio," she said. "Jazz & Connie draws their crowd as our Wednesday afternoon entertainment.''
Piper Castillo is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163