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See food? Chow down

(ran TP edition)

Banana George, the senior-citizen barefoot waterskier, and the rest of the Cypress Garden Ski Team will be featured at the Fourth Annual Ruskin Seafood and Arts Festival this weekend. Activities will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and end at 6 p.m. on the grounds of Days Inn Bahia Beach Island Resort at Shell Point Road.

Banana George will perform along with the other acts that include kite flying, pyramid building, the flag salute and water ski jumping. The team will greet the crowds carrying flags that spell out "Hello Ruskin" at shows scheduled for noon, 2 and 4 p.m. both days.

Last year the festival attracted 22,000 people, more than twice as many as the first year.

Ninety-five artists and craftsmen will display original works. Woodcrafts, T-shirts, oils and watercolors, jewelry and shell art are among the items for sale.

An air bag demonstration by Progressive Auto Insurance and the TECO Manatee exhibit will be set up inside the resort. South Bay hospital will provide free blood pressure screening and will be available for first aid services.

"Providing entertainment throughout the festival will be J. Roberts, whose guitar pickin', fiddle playing and vocals are reminiscent of Jimmy Buffett," said Jack Lawrie, vice president of the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of the festival.

But bring a hearty appetite for the highlight of the festival _ seafood.

Crabs, shrimp linguine, grouper sandwiches, oysters on the half shell and smoked mullet will be available.

"Walt's Fish Market of Sarasota will have gator or clam plates and cracked conch, peas and rice," said Lawrie.

Alessi's of Tampa will supply seafood chowder, catfish fillets and dessert eclairs.

The Olive Garden will contribute shrimp kabobs, salad, breadsticks and Italian sausage.

For the landlubber there will be hot dogs and hamburgers.

Admission to the festival is free. Parking is $3.

For information, call the chamber at 645-3808.