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Lutz all set for another Ole Fashioned Fourth

The closest Independence Day celebration to Land O'Lakes happens Tuesday in Lutz.

The 49th annual celebration, An Ole Fashioned Lutz Fourth of July, will be held in downtown Lutz at U.S. 41 and Lutz Lake Fern Road. Admission is free.

Highlights include the popular parade and the naming of the town's honorary guv'na for the next year.

The current guv'na, Lorraine Dabney, will declare the community's independence from Hillsborough County, the state of Florida and the United States, a nod to the town's knack for clashing with politicians over road construction and environmental concerns.

"We've got to secede, just for one day to get their attention," said longtime Lutz resident Auralee Buckingham, who helped organize the event. "Just leave us alone guys. We're always protesting something."

Residents here have helped get the Old Lutz Schoolhouse placed on the state's list of historical places. They also have protested the widening of U.S. 41 and the pumping of water from nearby well fields to Pinellas County.

Tuesday's festivities begin at 8 a.m. with the annual 5K (3.1 miles) road race and 1-mile fun run, organized by the Lutz Lizards and Bayshore Runners Club. About 300 runners are expected to wind their way through the back streets and return to Lutz Community Park.

State Sen. John Grant hoists the U.S. flag at 9, while Lutz teen Natalie Rose sings The Star-Spangled Banner.

Race winners in youth and adult categories will be crowned soon after that. The defending men's and women's champions are Lutz resident and University of South Florida track coach Bob Braman and Maria Guzman, a student at Florida Institute of Technology.

As always, the day concludes with the crowning of the newly elected Lutz guv'na.

"It was a fun thing," Guv'na Dabney said of her yearlong term. "Actually, the main focus is to bring the community together."

Two key accomplishments during Dabney's tenure were raising $1,000 for the Lutz Volunteer Fire Department and building a handicapped playground at Maniscalco Elementary School.

In the running for guv'na, to be sworn in by Rep. Victor Crist at 11:30 a.m., are Kay Dahman and David Neely.

Dahman, sponsored by the Lutz-Land O'Lakes Woman's Club, is a retired schoolteacher and 15-year resident of Lutz. She has volunteered for numerous community projects and is a former cake bake contest winner.

Neely, son of former Guv'na Betty Neely, is a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Lutz and is active in the Lutz Little League. He has been a GTE employee for 18 years and breeds rottweilers.

A host of activities round out the day. Following the 10 a.m. cake bake contest is a community parade. Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Jim Norman is the grand marshal.

The Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department is organizing children's booths and games, which include face painting, arts and crafts, races and balloons.

The Bell Sisters and Turtle Lakes Dancers will entertain the crowd while barbecued chicken, cooked by the local firefighters, is served.