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Clearwater plans 75th birthday bash

The city is getting ready to celebrate its 75th birthday and, even though it may really be 99, no one's complaining. Seventy-five years ago Clearwater city government was chartered, according to documents filed in the city clerk's office. So city officials decided to celebrate the birthday in the traditional way: with a big bash.

City government has established a task force that is organizing several events leading up to May 27. On that date, it will be 75 years since the city was chartered in 1915.

But Clearwater may be lying about its age.

Local historian Michael L. Sanders pointed out that Clearwater actually was incorporated as a town in 1891. The community's first name was Clear Water Harbor, which later was shortened to Clearwater.

Sanders said it is important for residents to remember those facts. At the same time, he said, there's no reason the city should not celebrate.

Terry Schmidt, a supervisor with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, firmly agrees with the latter point. Schmidt, who has worked for years helping to organize the city's annual Fun 'n Sun festival, is co-chairman of the 75th anniversary task force.

Schmidt said he hopes the event will bring together all sorts of people, from those who would like to dress up for a black-tie ball to those who want to take the kids to a concert in the park.

"It's just a time for people to get together and celebrate the city," he said.

Among the events planned so far:

A kickoff celebration that will include a 75-kilometer (46.5-mile) run with people running one-mile legs. It will be at the end of March.

A black-tie ball at the Holiday Inn Surfside on Clearwater Beach to benefit the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens. It is scheduled for May 11.

The birthday celebration itself on May 27 at Coachman Park. This will include food, games, concerts and entertainment throughout the day, capped off with a fireworks show.

The 37th annual Fun 'n Sun festival scheduled for late spring, with events including a concert series, sports competitions, art shows, dances and other activities.

The city wants to encourage businesses and civic groups to add other events to the lineup, Schmidt said. A complete list will be announced later.

The city plans to spend $10,000 on street banners to spread the news of the celebration. The banners are reusable.

A display of photos depicting the city's history also will be showcased at several events.

The city's budget for the event is about $22,500, so donations from corporations, civic groups and individual volunteers are being sought.

To participate as a sponsor or volunteer, call Schmidt at 462-6531.

Who knows? If things go well, maybe next year someone will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Clear Water Harbor.