NEW PORT RICHEY
Music, food, a good old-fashioned trolley pull, fireworks and the promise of two days of family fun fill an early kickoff to America's Independence Day celebration at the annual Friendly Kia Fest Main Street Blast today and Saturday at Sims Park downtown.
The event, traditionally held the last weekend of June so volunteers can enjoy the Fourth of July holiday with family and friends, and sponsors can get an early-bird discount on fireworks, will be chock-full of new and traditional offerings.
"The music is just killer," Judy DeBella Thomas said.
Local opening acts include the Bob Hope Band and High Energy Band followed by the Black Honkeys, headlining tonight's festivities.
People can expect lots of what the band calls "dirty roadhouse music," said Black Honkeys front man Phillip Esposito, whose delivery is reminiscent of lead singer Peter Wolf from the J. Geils Band. "We definitely pay homage to J. Geils," Esposito said, adding that sets will be filled with a fun mix of soul, rhythm and blues and good old rock 'n' roll featuring covers of songs by the Spinners, the O'Jays the Four Tops, Rolling Stones, Gladys Knight, Sly and the Family Stone and more.
Come Saturday night, SPF 40 and That '70s Band will start things off, followed by a "Jersey Shore comes to Main Street" kind of lineup featuring Bon Jovi and Springsteen tribute bands Keep the Faith and the Boss Project.
New events this year are the Office Olympics with competitive activities such as wastebasket basketball, team tug-of-war and a cellphone relay. Other inaugural offerings include corn hole games and the Walgreens/Kia Trolley Tow (1 to 3 p.m. Saturday in the park) with proceeds going to "Team Be the Match," a nationwide organization that assists patients in need of bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants. That event comes with a $500 cash prize and bragging rights for the winning team. Veterans and current military members are also welcome to jump on board to add a little weight to the event.
Festivalgoers can take a stroll through the traditional arts and crafts and commercial vendors area and check out the rides at the Sunset Corvette and Classic Car Cruise-In lined up around Orange Lake.
Little ones can burn off some energy in the Kids Zone with activities such as face painting, bounce houses, pony rides, a petting zoo and more.
Members of the Sunset Corvette Club will be collecting donations for Toys for Tots for those who want to get a head start on their winter holiday giving. Altruistic attendees can also pick up a free T-shirt, a $5 coupon for Outback Steakhouse and get a free wellness check by giving blood at the Oneblood donation bus (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday).
Fireworks will be set off at about 9 to 9:15 p.m. Saturday.
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.