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Fee first // 68-year free tradition ends for the Festival of States

Published Oct. 16, 2005

In December, the people who run the Festival of States were justconsidering the idea. Now they're sure.

Straub Park will be surrounded by a fence, and people who attend the festival's six weekend concerts will have to pay to get in. The move will end the festival's 68-year tradition as an almost totally free event.

"We've got to condition people to the fact that there's going to be a charge," said Don MacTavish, executive director of the festival. "But we're trying to make it worth the charge."

MacTavish has said the charge is necessary for two reasons.

First, the City Council this year reduced the amount of its subsidy to the festival from $75,000 to $50,000. The subsidy will be phased out by 1993 because of budgetary problems. Secondly, the festival is taking on new events, which cost more money and cannot be totally subsidized with corporate donations.

The festival is scheduled from March 23 to April 8. It is a three-week series of events that includes parades, concerts, band competitions, dances, art and auto shows, and an air show.

Friday, MacTavish said the charge to get into each of six major concerts at Straub Park will be $3. However, festival-goers can purchase a $2 pin that will get them into one concert and entitle them to a $1 discount for each of the other five.

Those who buy pins also will be entered into a drawing to win one of several prizes, including a trip to Paris, a cruise, $500 worth of lottery tickets, a mobile telephone and a compact disc player, MacTavish said.

The festival will begin Friday, March 23, with a concert by a performer to be named later, he said. The next day will bring RibFest, a rib-cookoff in Straub Park. About 10 rib-cooking specialists from around the nation have agreed to be part of the event, organizers said this week.

Two '60s-era rock groups will perform that weekend. The Turtles will play Saturday evening, and Gary Puckett & the Union Gap will perform Sunday, MacTavish said.

The second weekend will include concerts by a national act to be named later, a local band and the Pinellas County All-City Band, made up of high school band members from throughout the county.

The festival's final weekend is set aside for the Sam Robinson Music Festival, which will feature local and national jazz performers on Saturday, April 7, and Sunday, April 8.

MacTavish said Straub Park will be ringed with wire fencing that will be folded back for events that are free. The fence will have five gates and will be installed along Beach Drive, from the Museum of Fine Arts to Fifth Avenue N. The sea wall of the Vinoy Basin will provide the eastern boundary, he said.

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