Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chasco Fiesta returns, pared back by budget

NEW PORT RICHEY — The rich tradition of Chasco Fiesta — Pasco's oldest, largest and longest festival — will kick off March 23, but keeping the celebration going didn't come easy this year.

Budget cuts forced organizers to pare back, shaving two days off the once 11-day event and cutting or consolidating some of the activities. Native American Night, which traditionally kicked off Chasco with dancing and live music from performers like flutist and fiddler Arvel Bird, is gone. The American Indian dance competitions and educational presentations, previously spread over two weekends, are now packed into a three-day Native American Pow Wow and Festival that runs March 23-25.

"We never want to lose days, but this will ensure that we keep our Native American heritage that is such a big part of Chasco," said Chasco executive director Kristen King.

Planners scrambled to organize this year's festival after city officials announced last summer that New Port Richey would slash its funding of special events.

As the city felt the squeeze of shrinking tax revenue and the strain of real estate debt, officials decided they could no longer foot the entire bill for providing police officers, firefighters and public works and parks crews to facilitate downtown events. Chasco was the largest recipient of that support, receiving an estimated $80,000 in city services.

Initially, officials considered cutting off their entire support, and the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce considered pulling the event out of the city. The City Council later approved a compromise that provided $40,000 in services for the event.

Planners made strategic cuts and turned to an army of volunteers to keep the festival strong. Chasco will still feature the popular street and boat parades, the carnival midway and nine nights of live music. Ultimately, King said she doesn't expect patrons will notice much of a difference.

"All in all, I think its going to wonderful," she said.

Entry fees for floats in the popular street parade jumped from $100 to $200, and there's a new $25 charge for nonprofits to enter. But King said the March 24 parade will be just as packed as usual, with about 100 floats.

Other cost cutting measures included slashing $20,000 worth of television ads and making additional changes to entertainment. Organizers nixed Noche Latina and Dancing Under the Stars, and instead added a youth music showcase for March 26. Not only did it cut the entertainment costs for that night, it will allow young people to show off their talents, King said.

This year's lineup also features "A Grateful Nation" on March 28, a concert hosted by the Sand Soldiers of America to honor the military, first responders and their families. Critically acclaimed songwriter and vocalist Julie Black will open that night for Odyssey Road, a Journey tribute band.

With the use of city services scaled back, Chasco will count on an unprecedented amount of volunteers this year. In fact, with no money in the budget for an annual paid assistant to work on logistics, the team of volunteers will be overseen by a volunteer, King said.

"It's really been awesome to see people step up and volunteer. It's a tough year for us. It's a tough year for everyone," King said. "But people know that and we have entertainers charging us less, and just more people looking to help us."

Still, there have been rocky moments between the city and organizers, including a tense exchange last week over the tab for the event.

For the first time, the city and Chasco have a "memorandum of understanding," a contract of sorts that outlines costs and responsibilities of the event. It will be a standard procedure for all special events in the future.

At a meeting last week, City Council members bristled at a stipulation that said Chasco would only be responsible for up to $5,000 if the city's costs exceed the $40,000 sponsorship.

Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe, a downtown business owner and vocal critic of Chasco, said taxpayers should not be on the hook for anything more than $40,000, and spoke of past Chasco organizers' spending.

"The Chasco event planners thought it was their God-given right to spend taxpayers' money, and that's wrong. It's just flat wrong," Marlowe said.

Officials reached a compromise: The city will cover the overage if their own estimates for their services were too low, while Chasco will get the tab for any additional costs if their volunteers fall short of their duties.

"It's been a long process. The city's staff has been fantastic," King said. "It's been hard on all of us only because it's the first time for both of us. And that not knowing has added to the frustration."

>>if you go

Chasco Fiesta

What: Chasco Fiesta, a nine-day festival featuring a Native American Pow Wow, carnival midway, festival food, vendors, live music nightly and other events that raise money for numerous local nonprofits.

Where: In and around Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey

When: March 23-31

A full schedule of events is available at

. if you go

Chasco Fiesta

What: Chasco Fiesta, a nine-day festival featuring a Native American Pow Wow, carnival midway, festival food, vendors, live music nightly and other events that raise money for numerous local nonprofits.

Where: In and around Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey

When: March 23-31

A full schedule of events is available at

Chasco Fiesta returns, pared back by budget 03/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 10, 2012 1:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year


    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'


    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. []
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]