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Here are fun options to Gasparilla

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL PAGEANT

Trade in the hysteria of Gasparilla for the hometown feel of a historic community event.

The Florida Strawberry Festival and the Plant City Lions Club offer the family-friendly 2013 Strawberry Queen Pageant at the Madonia Agricultural Center on the Strawberry Festival grounds. The event, a Plant City tradition dating back to 1930, starts at 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $15 at the door.

More than 1,000 people showed up last year to watch 35 young women vie for the coveted Strawberry Queen tiara and $1,200 in scholarship money. The contestants, ages 16 to 20, perform 30-second advertising spots for local businesses, tackle judges' questions, and model casual wear and evening gowns. This year, 25 will vie for the title.

"It's an opportunity to cheer on local girls," festival spokeswoman KeeLee Tomlinson said. "As you get closer to the finale, the excitement and anticipation build. You're sitting there cheering someone on. Every Plant City girl wants to be Strawberry Queen."

Rich Shopes, Times staff writer

LAKELAND PIGFEST

If getting weighed down with ribs sounds better than getting weighed down with beads, consider the 17th annual Lakeland Pigfest at Tiger Town. More than 150 competition teams will serve up all manner of grilled meats in the hopes of being crowned a winner in one of three divisions: the Kingsford Professional, Publix Backyard and Publix Sides Contest.

The festival also features other foods and offers live music throughout the day. Kids can enjoy a bounce house area, balloon artists and face painters.

The only challenge may be parking during peak times, but by all accounts, Pigfest is well worth the short ride. It runs from 6 to 11 p.m. today and continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Go to lakelandpigfest.org for all the delish details.

Ernest Hooper, Times staff writer

THROW YOUR OWN PARTY

Avoid the crowds and create your own swashbuckling fun this year by hosting a Gasparilla party at home.

Start with the decor. There's not much time left to build a replica of the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship, but all is not lost. Local party supply stores have all the pirate paraphernalia a first mate could need, including pirate pinatas and eye patches.

Pirates are bound to get hungry. Take the easy route by giving ordinary dishes pirate names. Think Shiver Me Timbers Sushi. And don't forget to add oranges to the fruit salad, to, you know, fight off scurvy from those long months at sea.

Amp up the fun by doling out pirate names. Make them up yourself or head to the Internet for a choice of several pirate name generators. Anyone who forgets to use the new names has to walk the plank into the pool.

Make it a true Gasparilla celebration by creating makeshift floats out of bicycles and wagons and decorating them with crepe paper and pirate flags. Then parade down the driveway or organize a block procession. Have judges vote on the best ones.

Just don't forget to throw the beads.

Shelley Rossetter, Times staff writer

BRANDON SATURDAY MARKET

While pirates are laying anchor in the bay, vendors will take over the parking lot between Sears and the east entrance of the Westfield Brandon mall and fill it with produce, arts and crafts, jewelry, music, entertainment and more.

Several local businesses will set up shop at the market, including Grandma Grace's Goodies jellies and jams from Plant City; the Cuppin Cake cupcake truck and Bugs and Fossils Jewelry from Tampa; My Sweet Bees honey from Seffner; Maran Silks, which makes custom silk flower arrangements, from Ruskin; and Happy Scraps wall art from Thonotosassa.

True to its name, the market will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Brandon mall at 459 Brandon Town Center. For information, call (813) 966-6253.

Keeley Sheehan, Times staff writer

SUNCOAST SPORTS FESTIVAL

Why cheer for pirates when you can cheer for athletes?

Club sports youth from around the country will compete at the Suncoast Sports Festival. They will compete in basketball, gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, karate, cheerleading and dance. Most of the 1,500 athletes expected to compete are from Florida, and while they may be in uniforms, they won't be sporting scarves or gold loop earrings.

The festival runs today through Sunday beginning at 8 a.m. each day. Events will be held in the Expo Hall, entertainment hall and special events center at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Daily tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 4 to 9. For information, call (727) 919-4149.

Keeley Sheehan, Times staff writer

Here are fun options to Gasparilla 01/24/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 5:27pm]
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