NEW PORT RICHEY
It's three days of seafood and blues, arts and crafts and more as the Cotee River Seafood and Blues Festival kicks off at 4 p.m. today with a welcoming happy hour and some home-spun fun in Sims Park.
This is the 13th year for the festival, and while the event has always been seafood centered, it has certainly evolved: think river rides, classic cars, boats, water sport demonstrations, mermaids and specifically, live blues music.
This year what you'll be seeing on the stage is mostly local fare.
"It's geared to families and adults of all ages," said Beth Fregger, New Port Richey Main Street's executive director who organized the event. "We have many different genres of blues, from southern blues to real Chicago blues."
There will be performances by grownups and some talented kids, too. It all starts tonight with bands that have played at nearby clubs: Thunderbolt Brown Blues Band, Time Bandits, and KathyJo & the Bluzification Band. Featured entertainment on Saturday afternoon includes The Blue Riders, F n' F Blues Project and Woody and the WoodTones, all winners of the Fresh Catch talent search sponsored by Cocktails in New Port Richey. Local bluesmen, Sean Chambers, John Leavell (formerly a tour guitarist with Uriah Heep) and Josh Lamkin are among those performing on Saturday night. And if you don't get your fill there, go on over to see those same guys playing at the after party, held for the first time starting at 11 p.m. at Cocktails on Grand Boulevard.
"Everybody's going to come over to my place and hopefully have a good time," said Cocktails owner (and blues lover) Frank Golino, who assisted Fregger in selecting this weekend's lineup.
Taking the stage on Sunday will be about a half-dozen youth bands who have been learning the craft at Music Matters Rock School in New Port Richey.
"These kids are pretty good so I'm hoping people will come out and check them out," said Music Matters owner Frank Abendroth. "It gives them some more performance opportunity — that's what they do this for, to have a chance to play."
"We're a community organization and we need to involve the community," Fregger said, adding that she thought this was a great way to showcase the talent in this area, from professionals who perform in local establishments to the up-and-coming talented kids. "We're trying to bring it home, so to speak."
The fest also includes arts and crafts vendors, many of them new to the venue: potters, jewelers, fabric artists and "a gal who does hats," Fregger said.
There will also be the opportunity to take a river ride or take in a kayak demonstration, check out the winners of the Pasco Camera Exchange photo contest or have your picture taken with a Weeki Wachee mermaid. For the kids there will be face painting, bounce houses, hula hoops and other fun games.
Food includes the old standbys, from fried shrimp to fresh sushi, funnel cakes and kettle corn, and also some new vendors including Killer Samich, City Grill (pit barbecue) and roasted corn with all the fixings.
"It's going to be fun and it looks like the weather is going to cooperate," Fregger said. "The best thing about our event is that it's free. So bring your chairs and blankets and leave your coolers at home, because we have plenty for you to eat and drink."
This article has been updated to reflect the following clarification: John Leavell was a tour guitarist with Uriah Heep. The original version of this article was unclear about his role with the band.