OLDSMAR — Families looking for weekend fun should write "Visit Oldsmar" across their calendar for today and Saturday. The excitement begins with a carnival tonight and ends with fireworks as the annual Celebrate Oldsmar festival kicks off the Labor Day weekend.
Bring a blanket or a chair to R.E. Olds Park on the Oldsmar bayfront and choose a spot. Parents can unwind and enjoy the music of the Black Honkeys. Children can take pony rides, expend energy jumping on inflatables and quench their curiosity as they explore big trucks and heavy machinery.
The carnival portion of Celebrate Oldsmar will begin today, with rides and games operating from 6 to 9 p.m.
The carnival continues Saturday evening, and a new attraction, the Touch-A-Truck exhibit, will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will surely entice children to climb aboard the fire engine and ladder truck, front-end loader, backhoe, dump truck and the Kaiser, an all-terrain mobile excavator that looks as if it could easily morph into a Transformer.
"I'm a Touch-A-Truck fan," said Holly LiBaire, communications and marketing administrator for Oldsmar. "It's really intriguing to sit in the cab or see the inside of these big trucks and vehicles that you normally drive by. Parents should bring their cameras to get some interesting pictures of their children."
Children and adults can climb on and into the trucks, including the Kaiser. City employees, who are the equipment operators, will be on hand to answer questions about the equipment.
Fireworks will light up the sky at 9 p.m. Saturday to close the festival.
The event shows how Oldsmar celebrates life and its residents. City employees volunteer to do much of the work for Celebrate Oldsmar. They set up tents, grocery shop, cook, serve and clean up after everyone, according to LiBaire.
"We do it all with a smile," said LiBaire. "It's a good feeling knowing that you're helping out, and we get a lot of thank-yous from people. It's tough today for a family to afford to go out together, have fun and eat out, too, at a nominal cost."
All food served at the festival costs between $1 and $2. The menu includes chicken nuggets, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, soda, water and ice cream.
What began in 1997 as a replacement event after rain forced cancellation of the Fourth of July fireworks has turned out to be such a success, it is now the signature event of Oldsmar.
"The setting is so pretty," LiBaire said. "And the fireworks go off from a pier that extends 500 feet out over Tampa Bay. As far as I know, there are no other fireworks going off for Labor Day except at Celebrate Oldsmar … and seeing those fireworks in the sky above Tampa Bay is really awesome."