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PARADE OF NEIGHBORHOODS // PROUD HOMEOWNERS

Today, the block party. Tomorrow, the tours.

From 4 to 7 p.m. today at The Pier, St. Petersburg's established neighborhoods and other groups will hold a free block party. Neighborhood groups will hand out information about their parts of town, and residents will be available to talk about why they like where they live.

Free guided trolley tours of traditional and contemporary neighborhoods will be offered, a preview to the Parade of Neighborhoods on Sunday.

At 6:30 p.m., St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer will present the "Neighborhood of the Year" awards. There will be magicians, clowns, music, Sunken Gardens attractions and a "Paint Your Neighborhood" feature for kids.

Then from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, residents of nine city neighborhoods will open their doors for free tours. Most of these "show homes" are not for sale. They're homes that are representative of those in their neighborhood, where proud homeowners are glad to welcome visitors to see what they've done and how they've remodeled.

At the same time, real estate agents may be holding open houses of homes for sale in those same neighborhoods.

A map of the participating neighborhoods, indicating the locations where maps of the tour homes can be picked up, appears today on Page D.

Traditionally these tours have attracted hundreds of visitors, from Tampa, Pasco County and North Pinellas, as well as St. Petersburg.

Organizers hope Sunday's tours will give prospective buyers a chance to find the kind of neighborhood and the kind of home they're looking for, and to meet and talk with homeowners. It's a lot easier to envision what an old house can become when you've seen what someone else has done, they say.

Today we offer profiles of some of the neighborhoods that welcome visitors Sunday.

These are settled neighborhoods, racially and economically diverse, with a wide mix of housing styles and a wide range of prices. Residents know their homes and neighborhoods aren't perfectly manicured. Some of the open houses are works in progress; some of the neighborhoods are struggling to turn themselves around.

"An old neighborhood is competing against new construction, where there's an advertising budget," said Karl Nurse, president of the Old Southeast Neighborhood Association, which is participating in the Parade. "An old neighborhood doesn't have an ad budget, and this is our best way to counter that."

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