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Severe weather could upend Tampa Bay's outdoor events this weekend

Meteorologists and local event organizers are monitoring a system that could bring severe weather to the region today.

With some major outdoor events planned, most organizers were saying they will go ahead rain or shine. However, Largo canceled two events because of the forecast, and at least two other events — the Erase Hate Festival in Tampa with Brandi Carlile and the Brandon Skate Park grand opening — have been postponed due to weather.

The problem is brewing because an area of low pressure is forecast to develop over the Gulf of Mexico and begin moving toward Florida. The region could see heavy rain, possibly up to 3 inches, damaging winds and hail, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure. There will be a limited chance of tornados.

Today there is an 80 percent chance of rain with a slight risk of severe thunderstorms, McClure said. Since the low pressure system was still forming in the gulf Friday evening, forecasters encouraged residents to check early today for a more fine-tuned outlook. A cold front will sweep through the area Sunday. Highs are expected to peak in the upper 70s, with rain chances around 50 percent.

That's not what organizers want to hear when there are so many outdoor events planned this weekend, from Clearwater's free Fun 'N Sun concerts in Coachman Park to American Stage's Rocky Horror Show performance in the park in downtown St. Petersburg.

What's a fun-lover to do? Pack an umbrella and keep an eye on the weather.

The 13 Ugly Men White Party at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk hotel will go on rain or shine, as will the Mainsail Arts Festival in St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park and Clearwater's Fun 'N Sun concerts at Coachman Park.

The Erase Hate Festival in Curtis Hixon Park announced that it was postponing the festival, a kickoff to a regional anti-bullying campaign, "in the interest of the safety of all our attendees and entertainers." The festival's website said a new date will be announced soon and all VIP packages will be honored on the new date.

In Brandon, there's good news and bad. First, the bad: The Brandon Skate Park grand opening set for noon today will be rescheduled in May. Now the good news: The skate park will still open as weather allows for all skaters to enjoy, and entry will be free throughout the summer. The 11,000-square-foot "obstacle street and bowl" skate park is at 5720 Providence Road.

American Stage says it never lets the threat of bad weather cancel a show, so the Rocky Horror Show is a go at Demens Landing. If the weather makes organizers pull the plug, patrons can use their ticket for any other upcoming performance.

The city of Largo announced that this weekend's Open Air Market at the Largo Community Center and the Relay for Life at Largo Central Park have been canceled. There was no word on any rescheduled dates.

Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne contributed to this report.

Severe weather could upend Tampa Bay's outdoor events this weekend 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 10:48pm]
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