NEW PORT RICHEY — The 15th annual Friendly Kia Fest/Main Street Blast serves up some early Fourth of July fun this weekend with live music, a children's area, an arts and crafts show, a classic car cruise-in, boat tours on the Cotee River, food, beer, and, of course, fireworks shows Friday and Saturday at Sims Park downtown.
The musical lineup boasts a host of classic rock acts, kicking off at 7 p.m. Friday with Circle Sky, followed by headliner the Black Honkeys at 9 p.m.
"The Black Honkeys faithfully re-create the sound, energy and excitement of soul, Motown and R&B," said True Oldies 106.3 managing partner Steve Schurdell, who helped Greater New Port Richey Main Street with this year's lineup. "They already have a huge following in Hillsborough and Pinellas, and we introduced this area to the band at our True Oldies Chasco Night. The show was awesome and the crowd was standing-room only."
The Black Honkeys' Chasco Fiesta performance was their first in New Port Richey. Band member Phil Esposito enjoyed the ambience of Sims Park and Orange Lake.
"If you want an Americana, Main Street, hometown vibe, that's the place," Esposito said. "It's just great down there."
The seasoned musicians have been together about 12 years and pride themselves on great music and high energy. Esposito says he often wakes up sore the next day from jumping off speakers.
"I can guarantee the show will be awesome," Esposito said. "The environment that the show is happening in will be awesome. And if the people came out like they did for Chasco, the audience will be awesome."
On Saturday, the live music continues at 1 p.m. with Cody's Camp Revival (a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band), followed by an evening concert featuring Eric Anderson Band, Velvet Jones and finishing off with Head Games — the Foreigner Tribute, which will play during the fireworks show.
Head Games is flying in from New York to play their first Florida show. The band members double as studio musicians who have worked on various commercials, radio jingles and movie soundtracks. Lead singer and founding member Mike Ledesma trains in vocal mastery with an opera coach to keep his voice strong enough to sing all of the songs in their original key.
"We are a very authentic-looking, totally authentic-sounding tribute," Ledesma said. "We look the part. We all have the long hair, the rock 'n' roll clothes and the attitude."
The band's YouTube profile and Facebook page have garnered them many Florida fans, whom the band is excited to meet in person. Head Games' social media profiles have even scored them a "fly-out gig" to Trinidad.
Ledesma promises that the band has something special up its sleeve for Main Street Blast but doesn't want to ruin the surprise.
The music won't be the only blast from the past at the celebration. Saturday afternoon there will be a Miss Firecracker reunion.
Judy Speach, Miss Firecracker 2007, didn't expect to enter the contest, let alone win. She was working as a patient coordinator at a local surgeon's office when an application to the Miss Firecracker competition came through the fax. Speach had never participated in a pageant before, but her office manager and co-workers persuaded her to enter.
On the way to the event, Speach wasn't sure she wanted to go through with the competition, but just in case, they stopped at her Port Richey home to pick up some dresses. When they got to Main Street Blast, Speach stifled her nerves, changed into her red dress and took to the stage. Before she knew it, she was wearing the crown.
"I love it because it (gives) the city of New Port Richey a small-town feel," Speach said of the contest and festivities. "It made it more like a hometown thing and I like that."
Former Miss Firecracker Star Verosic will also attend the reunion, as the first and only winner to reign for two years. Verosic was Miss Pasco 2005 and went on to Miss Florida that year. Though she didn't take home the crown, she resolved to compete again the following year. But by the time the next pageant rolled around, Verosic was pregnant and couldn't compete in the Miss America circuit. That's when she saw the Miss Firecracker competition.
"You're kind of that representative from the New Port Richey area, being a good role model, going out there and helping the community out," Verosic said. "It's an honor and it's cool too because I had a lot of little girls come up to me (saying), 'Ooh, Miss Firecracker!' "
Samantha Fuchs can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.