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Fulfill hunger for food and fun

(ran GB edition)

Seafood pasta, steamed clams, grouper sandwiches and seafood kabobs are just a few of the culinary efforts to be served this weekend at the Clearwater Beach Seafood Festival.

This is the eighth year for the festival. Nine beach restaurants are participating this year, and most items will cost $3 and under. The festival is planned for 5 to 11 p.m. today and 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday on the beach directly behind the Holiday Inn Surfside.

The Backtrack Blues Band will perform in free concerts Friday and Saturday nights behind the Surfside. The Backtrack Blues Band is a three-time Tampa Bay Music Awards winner in the Most Outstanding Blues Band category.

Participating restaurants include Rajan Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Seafood & Sunsets at Julie's, Frenchy's Cafe, Rockaway Grill, Flagship Restaurant, Sunset Grill and Reflections. Food also will be served by the Clearwater Beach Breakfast Sertoma Club and by Chapel by the Sea.

"Everyone should come out and sample what we have," said Chef Murray Young at the Holiday Inn Surfside. "We do put out some very good food."

Children can have their faces painted by clowns and see a Little Mermaid impersonator from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Arts and crafts booths will be set up, and items will be available for purchase. Ice-carving demonstrations by three local chefs will take place from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

"I'm planning to carve a Teenage Ninja Turtle," said Chef Murray, who is also a professional ice carver. "We'll be doing several different pieces. There will be swans, eagles."

The festival will end with a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, immediately following the Backtrack Blues Band concert.

The Backtrack Blues Band has been appearing at concerts and nightclubs throughout Florida and the Southeast since 1979. They have opened for Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jeff Healey, Johnny Winter, B.B. King, George Thorogood and Gregg Allman.

The band has released two recordings, Dress It Up and Killin' Time. Killin' Time features 10 of their original songs and has been picked up by Ichiban Records.

Members of the band are Sonny Charles, harp and lead vocals; Little Johnny Walter, guitar and vocals; Spider Ingram, lead guitar and vocals; Sloppy Joel, bass; and Bab Below, drums.