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Fund-raiser to help children

Clearwater and Tarpon Springs Elks have found a way to help sick children by throwing a party that lasts all weekend. Members of the two Elks lodges have joined efforts to sponsor a festival today through Sunday to benefit the Florida Elks Children's Hospital, a pediatric orthopedic facility in Umatilla in Lake County that offers free treatment to sick children from needy families.

Nick Vukcevic, a Tarpon Springs Elk helping organize the festival, said club members raise money every year for the hospital and this year decided on a three-day festival.

The first Elks Music Festival is scheduled to run today through Sunday, with music and an international selection of foods at the Clearwater Elks Lodge. Much of the action is planned for under a 100-foot-by-200-foot tent. New, classic and collector cars will be displayed.

Entertainment will range from Oktoberfest music to Greek dancers. Scheduled today are "Polka King" Frankie Yankovic, Mike Tucson and The Bee Sharps. Music on Saturday will be presented by the Garden Avenue Seven, the Zoots and the Sevilles. Yankovic, The Bee Sharps and Greek dancers are planned for Sunday.

Parking will be available at Sunset Point Road and U.S. 19, with shuttle service to take patrons to and from the festival grounds.

The food selection will include corn on the cob for $1. "We will call it a buck an ear, and we're hoping to have some Bucs (Tampa Bay Buccaneer football players) there to sign autographs," said Tom Blevins, a member of the Clearwater Elks lodge and one of the festival organizers.

Local restaurants selling food at the event will include Chris' Catering, Country Pizza Inn, the Gourmet Deli and the Fraternity House, all in Clearwater; Downtown Pizza in Tarpon Springs; Marty and Lois Delicatessen in Palm Harbor; and Frenchy's on Clearwater Beach.

"We tried to get a variety of food so we didn't have five different vendors selling hot dogs," Blevins said.

Vukcevic said nine clubs are in the area, and members of the Clearwater and Tarpon Springs groups hope eventually to bring those other clubs on board to make the festival an even larger event.

Blevins said the Elks' children's hospital is "the only one in the country. The clubs in each state have something different."

"You don't have to be an Elk to be treated there," he said. "The only financial obligation is that if you have any insurance at all, it goes to the treatment. Anything over that is no cost to the family, whether they have any insurance or not."

Festival Schedule

The Elks Music Festival runs from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. today, from 12:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 1 to 10 p.m. Sunday at the Clearwater Elks Lodge, 2750 Sunset Point Road just east of U.S. 19. Tickets are $5 per day or $10 for all three days. Children younger than 10 will be admitted free. Call 797-0016 or 799-6548.