NEW PORT RICHEY — Carnival rides, boat and street parades, a steady lineup of music in Sims Park and the traditional Native American festival are just part of what's on the agenda as the Chasco Fiesta gets under way today in downtown New Port Richey.
It's nine days of celebratory fun that's billed as an event that has "something for everyone" while providing a venue for more than 25 local non-profits to raise funds.
Everyone loves a parade and Saturday's march down the streets of downtown is a particular highlight with a decidedly patriotic tone.
The parade gets rolling at 1 p.m. with the Parris Island Marine Band leading the way along with an official flag corps and yet-to-be-named grand marshal from United States Central Command, or CENTCOM, in Tampa.
Booking the band is indeed a coup for parade organizers, one that might have been spurred with the help of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. The congressman hand-delivered the application a year ago in Washington, D.C., according to organizer Greg Armstrong, who has been staging the Chasco Fiesta Street Parade for 34 years running.
"I've seen them perform at the White House and the Capitol. If you want perfect, that's about as close as it gets," Armstrong said, adding that the band will also perform at Sims Park after the parade.
The Parris Island Marine Band has been around since 1915. Back then, the musicians did double duty, playing instruments and working as marksmanship instructors, close body combat instructors or in other support positions. Today, the band typically performs at military events and ceremonies, including about 40 recruit graduations a year and a select number of parades.
Lending to the patriotic spirit will be about 30 military units forming behind the band. Veterans and active military members are welcome to join in, Armstrong said, adding that interested marchers should meet before the parade at the Schwettman Education Center (5520 Grand Blvd.) and wear their colors or a shirt or hat that represents their branch of the military.
There will be at least 102 units rolling down Grand Boulevard, Main Street and around Sims Park, including 16 professional floats, 16 high school bands and 16 krewes who undoubtedly will be tossing bead necklaces.
There will also be a sentimental salute to this year's honorary grand marshal, Roger Michels, 84 who was long a mover and shaker when it came Chasco Fiesta's street march.
"For the last 50 years he's been the guy that got this parade going every year," Armstrong said. "He got the balloons from the Macy's Day parade back in the years we were doing balloons. He recruited bands from all over to make this more than a regional parade. Now we're the third-largest parade in Florida as far as attendance with a little over 100,000 (spectators) each year."
Contact Michele Miller at email@example.com. Follow @Michele Miller52.
The festival will be held today through April 9 in downtown New Port Richey. For more information and a complete schedule, go to chasco
fiesta.com. Here are some highlights:
Chasco Fiesta Native American Festival: A three-day event (April 1-3) held in Sims Park that features a variety of Native American vendors and cultural presentations Hours: 5-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
West Pasco Sertoma Club Barbecue: Now in its 45th year, this event is held over two weekends in Sims Park with proceeds benefitting the Sertoma Speech and Hearing Foundation of Florida. Hours for this weekend are: noon to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Menu includes barbecue pulled pork and pork ribs. The following weekend hours are 5-10 p.m. April 8; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 9 and features barbecue pulled pork, pork ribs and chicken. Cost is $9 in advance; $10 at the event. For tickets, contact Jeff Montgomery at (727) 457-4140. Tickets are also available at the Trinity Odessa Chamber of Commerce, West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and at Master Mechanics in downtown New Port Richey.
Children's Village: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in Sims Park. Arts and crafts, face painting and other activities.
Main Street Mile: Noon Saturday 5530 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. Registration ended March 30 for the 1-mile challenge and March 31 for the Marathon Challenge..
Chasco Street Parade: Kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday on Grand Boulevard, in downtown New Port Richey.
Car, Truck and Bike Show: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Orange Lake, adjacent to Sims Park.
Chasco Fiesta Golf Tournament: 11:30 a.m. April 8 at Seven Springs Golf and Country Club, New Port Richey. For information and registration form, go to chascofiesta.com/golf-tournament.html.
Special Olympics Fun Run/Walk: 8 a.m. April 9 at New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, 6630 Van Buren St., New Port Richey. Proceeds provide year-round competition for individuals with disabilities. Register at tbtim.es/yga.
Chalk Art Festival: The streets of New Port Richey's Railroad Square becomes a paved palette from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 9.
Chasco Fiesta Boat Parade: This boat parade is said to be the oldest in the state and those who go will want to find a viewing spot early along the Pithlachascotee, or Cotee, River. The theme of this year's parade is "All About Music" so expect boats to be decorated accordingly and blasting out songs. The parade starts at 1 p.m. April 9 in Millers Bayou and ends at Sims Park.
The Covanta Chasco Fiesta Carnival: Today through April 9 on Bank Street in New Port Richey. Hours are 5- 11 p.m. Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays; 1-8 p.m. Sunday; 5-10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. The carnival features games and rides for all ages. Wristband Prices range from $15 to $25, depending on the day.
Music in the Park
The JOY FM Family Night — Time of My Life, 6-10:30 p.m. today with the Afters, Unspoken, Chris August and special guest Among The Thirsty and Jesse Sliger. Pastor Andre Erasmus from Crosspoint Church in Holiday will open in prayer. Pasco Sheriff's Office will present colors. Free.
Grateful Nation, 1-11 p.m. Saturday. The Bridges (Eagles tribute band), The Embry Brothers, Dead Serious and Dalton Paige Band. Free.
Bay Area Showcase, 1-9:30 p.m. Sunday with Jule Vera, Franc Robert and the Boxcar Tourists, Time Bandits, Fast 4 Ward. Free.
Youth Music Showcase, 6-9:30 p.m. Monday with KForce Dance Company, Kids Kicking High Martial Arts Demo, Millennium Drum Line, Gem Princesses (Meet your favorite princess or super hero and get your picture taken with them), Ellie Jordyn Pierson Highland Dancer, Under His Wings, Mileena Ruiz, Mullins Music, Erin Laverty, Genesis Prep Jazz band and Stott Family Band. Free.
Bluegrass in the Park, 6-10 p.m. Tuesday with Larry Gillis Swampgrass Band and Phillip Steinmetz. Free.
Rock 'n' Roll Tribute, 6:30-10 p.m. Wednesday with China Grove (Doobie Brothers tribute band) and Fifty Grit (classic rock from 1965-85). Free.
Rhythm and Blues Masters, 6:30-10 p.m. Thursday with local blues artist, Julie Black and guitar great Rick Derringer. Free.
Oldies Night, 6-11 p.m. April 8 with local great Bertie Higgins, Jonathan Cortes and Time Bandits. Free.
Country Concert, 5:30-11 p.m. April 9 with Parmalee, Chris Lane and Redhead Express. Tickets are $15 and $25 in advance; $20 and $30 the day of the show. You can purchase tickets at West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, 5442 Main St., New Port Richey; Trinity Odessa Chamber of Commerce, 2553 Merchant Ave., Odessa; Synovus Bank Port Richey, 6435 Ridge Road, Port Richey; and Synovus Bank Trinity, 10820 State Road 54, Trinity or online at