They arrived early, donning Santa hats and lugging musical instruments and more than 50 folding chairs to set up over a long orange fluorescent line painted on grass to mark the makeshift stage.
It was the first public performance of the year for Pine View Middle School band members taking center stage at the sixth annual Traditions on the Green held Dec. 14 at the Land O'Lakes Community Center.
It was also the first public performance as a school band director for Amarilys Barbosa, who beamed as her students tuned up on a Saturday morning when they could have been sleeping in. Not too many years ago, Barbosa played in this very same band as a middle school student before going on to graduate from Land O'Lakes High in 2007.
Talk about going full circle.
"I'm really exited about the amount of work they've put into getting here," Barbosa said. "This is the perfect place for our first concert."
If members of the Heritage Park Foundation have their way, it will only get better — and bigger.
Word is they're raising funds for an outdoor stage — something along the lines of the covered band shell in New Port Richey's Sims Park — to serve as a venue for a variety of public events and performances.
That's the primary reason for hosting Traditions on the Green. The event shines a light on a local gem by offering up a festive day filled with student talent, puppet shows, pancakes and St. Nick and the opportunity to try a hand at some festive arts and crafts and a variety of fun and games.
Founded in 1997 by community members intent on preserving green space in central Pasco, the Heritage Park Foundation has been working with the Pasco Parks and Recreation department, the Land O'Lakes Community Center and local businesses, churches and civic groups to promote the park as a green show piece.
The foundation is actively involved with the redesign of the property that will start in January, said Sandy Graves, president of the Heritage Park Foundation. "That includes making improvements to the ballfields and concession stand, a new playground and an asphalt walkway. Now we're raising money for a stage so we can have things like this."
"It's the heart of Land O'Lakes," said Pasco County School Board member Joanne Hurley, a foundation past president and one of the founding members.
Hurley envisions a raised stage where school concerts and theatrical performances can be held, adding to the movie nights and other neighborly events already held at the community center. "It's a perfect venue for the school with the co-location with Sanders Elementary and the other schools," Hurley said. "It's a space where people can come together."
And maybe share a talent typically reserved for school theaters and auditoriums.
"We love this event," said Denham Oaks Elementary teacher Amy Kinnard who with fellow music teacher, Heather Croucher, has brought the school chorus to Traditions on the Green for the past three years. "They really love it. They have a fun time performing for members of the community and singing for people who would not see them otherwise."
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]