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Reggae music goes down smooth in Weeki Wachee, along with beer, wine

Dickey Dickenson, center, and his brother, Melvin, left, of Tampa open the jam session at the Reggae Sunfest on Saturday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Dickey Dickenson, center, and his brother, Melvin, left, of Tampa open the jam session at the Reggae Sunfest on Saturday.

WEEKI WACHEE — Helen Kalkoven admitted she wasn't even sure what reggae music was. But she showed up at Saturday's Reggae Sunfest at Linda Pedersen Park just the same.

"I can't tell you a thing about it," said Kalkoven, 63, tapping her foot to the tropical beat of the Caribbean Steel Band from Pasco County. "I came to see what it's all about. And you know what? I'm having a ball."

Most who attended the festival, sponsored by the Hernando County Recreation Department, seemed to agree. The event drew a small but enthusiastic crowd that was content to spend the afternoon in chairs beneath the canopy of tall shade trees and visit food and crafts booths set up along the park's walkways.

"We really had no idea what to expect," said county recreation manager Harry Johnson. "It's very much an experiment for us. We want to learn as much as we can from it."

One significant factor of the festival was that it marked the first time that beer and wine were sold inside a county park. Although sales were slow to start, things began to pick up during the afternoon.

County parks and recreation director Pat Fagan, who wore a Jamaican-style knit cap and dreadlocks wig as he tended the booth selling beer and wine tickets, said that he hoped alcohol sales would boost the event's coffers.

"It could be a real money-maker for us," Fagan said. About 18 county employees were on hand to staff two booths selling beer and wine.

Kathy Smith, who drove from New Port Richey for the festival with her husband, Alan, said she was pleased with the event. A fan of reggae music, she said the music always sounds better in an outdoor setting.

"We go all over to hear the music," she said. "This is one of the nicest places we've been to."

High Point resident Josephine LaBianco said she hoped that the event would spark interest by the county to sponsor more local music events.

"You usually have to go to Pinellas or Hillsborough County for something like this," she said. "Older people don't want to drive that far. If they had more events like this closer to home, they'll support them."

Although a second music festival has been planned at the park in the fall, Johnson said he must appear before the County Commission to give a report on Saturday's event before permission for the event can be granted.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Reggae music goes down smooth in Weeki Wachee, along with beer, wine 04/26/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 26, 2009 8:11pm]
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