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(ran SE edition of LT, E W edition of CTI)

Today begins the annual Chasco Fiesta _ three weeks of events, activities and food _ in West Pasco County.

One of the most exciting events of the fiesta _ the first Chasco Intertribal Pow Wow _ starts today and continues through Sunday. It will be held on Trouble Creek Road (see map).

The powwow grounds open at 9 a.m. Friday; between 500 and 600 American Indians from several nations, including Apache, Cherokee, Comanche, Creek (including Seminoles), Choctaw, Ojibwa and Aztec, are expected to attend.

The campgrounds will have American Indian arts and crafts, several vendors of ethnic food and storytellers presenting Indian legends and beliefs.

I was pleased to hear that Mayan Indians from Guatemala will be selling items made from their incomparable fabrics. I have a bright red Guatemalan dress at least 15 years old that looks as beautiful as the day I bought it, even though it has been laundered scores of times.

At various times, there will be intertribal dancing competition featuring "fancy dancers" in huge feathers and furs, ribbon dancers whirling about as they tamp down the grass and several specialty dancers.

At 7 p.m. today, visiting American Indian dignitaries will lead a ceremony to signify the beginning of more dancing events. Similar ceremonies will be presented at 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Gates close at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Although other areas of the grounds will bow to modern conveniences, the dance arena is strictly authentic. The only exception is the presence of modern lighting, as a traditional bonfire would pose too many hazards in case of winds.

Head Man Dancer will be Blue Sau-Pa Pahdocony, who is Comanche; Head Lady Dancer will be Shanan Pa Pahdocony. High singer and master of ceremonies will be Rick Byrd, who is Cherokee.

The featured dancer at the Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon ceremonies will be Arturo, an Aztec fire dancer, who places his hands and feet in fire.

Those who attend are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs, as there is no stadium seating. Cameras will be allowed. One unbending rule: No alcohol is allowed anywhere at the campsite.

Admission is $2 a person; all proceeds go to the Native American Children's Fund, Pasco County 4-H Cadets and the Withlacoochee Native American Indian Culture organization.

Another weekend event, the Nature Festival at Concourse Park off State Road 52, will have American Indian artists. In addition, there will be a horticulture show and sale, an archery demonstration and display by the Aripeka Archers, and Florida folk music by Friends of Florida Folk and others. Admission is free, but there is a parking fee of $3. Gates are open from 9 a.m. to dusk.

The Chasco Rendezvous, a re-creation of the trading meets between predominately French mountain men and various Indian tribes that took place from about 1835 to 1845, when animal furs were highly marketable in Europe, will be held at Moon Lake Lodge in north-central Pasco on March 11-13 from 9 a.m. to dusk.

The annual Salt Springs Raid, a Civil War battle re-enactment loosely based on an actual event, is March 19 and 20, also at the Trouble Creek site.

There will be a carnival at Town Center on U.S. 19 in Port Richey from March 10-19, a street parade in New Port Richey at 1 p.m. March 12 and a boat parade on the Pithlachascottee River at 3:30 Powwow begins

The Chasco Intertribal Pow Wow will be today, Saturday and Sunday at the site of the future First Baptist Church of New Port Richey. The grounds are on Trouble Creek Road, 2.2 mile east of U.S. 19, midway between Madison Street and Rowan Road, south of New Port Richey's city limits. Admission is $2.

p.m. March 19.